FC Barcelona enjoyed their fourth win in La Liga this season after they put five goals past Sporting Gijón without reply. With Barça making their worst start in La Liga since the 2008-09 season, they were desperate to get a win to go equal on points with Real Madrid at the top of the table. Luis Enrique made five changes from the match against Atletico Madrid on Wednesday as he left Andrés Iniesta, Ivan Rakitic and Javier Mascherano on the bench to ensure that they are well rested for the upcoming Champions League game against Borussia Mönchengladbach.
The game started in a clumsy fashion with no team taking real control of the match. There were plenty of stoppages early in the game due to fouls being committed with the Gijón crowd attempting to make life difficult for the Barça players. The goals came in quick fashion around the half-hour mark as Arda Turan lobbed the ball over the Sporting defence towards Luis Suárez, who steered the ball past Ivan Cuéllar before passing it on to the back of the net. Minutes later, Sergi Roberto found space on the right-hand side and crossed the ball towards Rafinha who headed it in to make 2-0.
The second half had a slow start until Sergi Roberto was tackled by Alberto Lora who received his second yellow of the match and was sent off. In the 80th minute, Roberto delivered a low cross to Paco Alc[acer who hit the post before the ball fell to Neymar, who scored with a cool finish. Another cross from Roberto was met by the head of Arda Turan who made it 4-0 and Neymar got his second of the game after he received the ball from Denis Suarez who had replaced Sergio Busquets and hit it through Cuéllar’s legs and into the back of the net.
This match showcased the continued rise of Sergi Roberto, who had another fantastic performance at right-back. Fresh from being named the third most valuable right-back in football according to Transfermarket, Sergi proved why that is the case after being involved in three of Barça’s five goals and making two assists. Being ever-present on the right-hand side, he made 4 key passes and had a 74% successful pass rate. He did not overlook his defensive duties as he made 7 successful tackles, blocked 2 shots and won 11 duels.
In an interview with Sport earlier this season, Roberto claimed to be enjoying his new position. “I’m feeling really adapted to the position all the time. It was a position that was new for me, but as the games pass I’m more familiar with the movements and have an understanding with my teammates,” he said. “I’m enjoying it more all the time playing as a full-back”.
As Aleix Vidal continues to struggle at right-back, Roberto gladly grabs all of his opportunities and continues to shine. He has gone from being a player whose career at Barça seemed to be coming to an end to being a vital part of the squad. He has improved drastically from last season and as he gains more experience he will only get better. Providing that Luis Enrique does not go looking for a proven right-back in the January transfer window, Sergi Roberto’s place is certainly assured.