Luis Enrique's Barçelona went toe to toe against Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool on Saturday and faced their first defeat in the preseason, losing 4-0 at Wembley. While one may attribute numerous reasons to the loss, we shall go ahead and take a look at what Barça could have done differently to avoid the one-sided scoreline.
1' Less than a minute into the game, Liverpool had already launched an attack, from a Lovren long ball.
This play could have been dealt with, if Camara had marked his man and not gotten tricked by Mané one-on-one, who would go on to play a one-two, and get into a good position to cross.
3' Another long ball from Liverpool. Emre Can makes a lovely pass to the charging Nathaniel Clyne on the right wing. Fortunately, Clyne overshoots his cross, and the danger is averted.
The defence played incredibly compact in this play, giving Liverpool access to operate on the wings without pressure.
14' Fourteen minutes in, Arda Turan plays a slow pass to Camara from a Munir throw, unaware of Adam Lallana, who was storming in to intercept. What followed, was a through-ball to Firminho, who would pass it back to an unmarked Lallana. Lallana would go on to nutmeg Mascherano to put Mané through for a shot which turned out to be the first goal of the game.
While the overturn of possession would be the root to the actual play, it was Camara's lack of positional awareness that left Lallana unmarked for the return pass. Mathieu was already onto Firminho when Camara decided to double press, leaving acres of space for Lallana to run into.
17' A rushed pass from Messi causes an overturn, which Mané and Camara battle for, with the former racing through. Munir in the meantime is already running after Clyne, who once more is given plenty of space to run into. Munir instructs Camara to mark Clyne, but it's too late, and the cross is made which Vidal clears, leading to a corner.
Communication was key to dealing with this situation, which Camara failed to display.
18' Through-ball from Clyne to Mané. Once more, there was plenty of space to run into, which could have been avoided with basic positioning.
31' A long ball from Mignolet finds it's way to Coutinho's feet, who gets by Vidal with relative ease, before rocketing the ball off-target from just inside the box.
A simple run into space from Vidal would have slowed down play, allowing Barça to regain shape.
46' Jeremy Mathieu fumbles under pressure from Mané, who manages to turn the clumsy tackle into a pass to Origi. Origi ends up playing a one-two with Mané who makes an easy cross for Henderson. With so much chaos in the penalty box, Mascherano ends up netting the ball for an own goal. The scoreline reads 2-0.
This entire move happened in the span of 10 seconds. There is no one to blame but Mathieu, for being unable to hold onto the ball under pressure.
47' Another individual error. Another goal on the counter. This time, it's Sergio Busquets, who fails to control a pass under pressure. One pass later, Origi is racing between the two centre-backs, who are wide apart. He shows composure to slot another quick counter through Bravo's legs, on goal. It's 3-0, two minutes into the second half.
52' Firminho is through on goal from a lovely ball by Can. He has Mané for support. It's 2 on 3 before Mascherano chooses to stop tracking back. Fortunately, Firminho's shot is off target.
The original overturn of possession was a result of some poor control from Messi, and while there was nothing the back-line could do to avoid the situation, Mascherano could have displayed some tenacity while dealing with it.
92' An excellent header from Grugic would creep right under the bar, in injury-time, to make the scoreline 4-0.
Looking back on the game, it was a necessary wake up call for the players, who edge closer to the season. Most of the initial wave of attacks from Liverpool were courtesy of poor positioning and decision-making from make-shift full-backs on either flank. Munir continued his industrious form, and Sergi Roberto gave a performance that will give the coach some selection headaches. Digne looked strong on the ball, which is another positive from a difficult match.
With a few games into their pre-season, Liverpool looked well drilled and fielded what was possibly their strongest XI. While their Gegenpressing took a toll on the Blaugrana in the first half, it gave the players an opportunity to push for maximum fitness, which is all that matters in a preseason game.