Barcelona kicked off the new campaign with a win against Tottenham Hotspur in their opening game of the International Champions Cup preseason tournament.
Manager Ernesto Valverde approached the game as a feel out one with opportunities given out to multiple players since many of the first team players that featured in the World Cup are still on vacation. Out of the 13 Barcelona players that represented their country at the 2018 World Cup, only Marc-André ter Stegen was selected by Valverde to play for the team during preseason.
With a squad featuring returners from last season, new signings, La Masia talents and players looking for redemption, this game and the rest of the preseason campaign will give the coaching staff a glimpse at which players are deserving of more opportunities and which need more work.
So in front of a jam-packed crowd at the Rose Bowl in Los Angeles, Barcelona and Tottenham provided the fans with a game that was better than anticipated.
In the first half, Barcelona were the ones creating chances and out-hustling Spurs. Barça scored the first goal off a cross into the box from Sergi Roberto that was received by Rafinha, who sent it in for Munir for an effortless header. Later in the first half, Arthur scored a stunning goal to make it 2-0.
The second half featured many La Masia talents coming into the game along with the debut of new signing Malcom. The game slowed down early in the half as neither team created any threatening goal-scoring chances. But Tottenham scored two quick goals in the 73rd and 75th minute to tie it up at 2-2. Barça ended up winning 5-3 in penalties with Malcom scoring the winner.
The one major discouraging aspect from the victory were the early injuries to both André Gomes and Denis Suarez. Both players will be evaluated over the coming days.
Although it was just a preseason fixture, it was good to see the team back in action. Here are three takeaways from Barça’s win over Tottenham.
1. Juan Miranda and Marc Cucurella showed they are ready to battle it out for a spot in the first team
Rumors have running rampant as of late surrounding the future of Lucas Digne. All signs point to his departure as Everton are making significant strides to sign the French international. Digne’s departure seems inevitable and this would grant a golden opportunity for both Marc Cucurella and Juan Miranda. When Digne departs, Barça are leaning towards not signing a replacement as they hope to give first team reps to those two Barça B talents.
So this game allowed them to show Valverde what they are capable of from a defending and attacking standpoint. And they did not disappoint against Tottenham.
Miranda was given the nod by Valverde to start alongside Marlon, Lenglet and Semedo in a more experienced backline. Throughout the first half, Miranda was heavily involved in the attack. With his pace, he made promising runs on the flank and delivered a couple of crosses that created goal-scoring opportunities. In one instance in the 10th minute, Miranda freed up space for himself on the wing and sent in a perfect cross to Munir but he botched the finish. Miranda also took risks throughout the game with long passes and challenges to opposing wingers — which must make the coaching staff proud.
On the other hand, Cucurella had a decent showing in his opportunity in the second half. He was aggressive in his challenges and moved the ball with threatening pace on the wing. But he made a crucial error when his poor clearance in the 72nd minute allowed Son Heung-Min to capitalize and score a goal.
Both young players will look to continue to impress Valverde and play at their best against AS Roma on Tuesday.
2. Arthur Melo impresses in his Barça debut
Arthur Melo garnered much of the attention during the game and it is for good reason. After months of scouting and speculation of whether the board would sign him, it was truly exhilarating to finally see him debut.
So in his first game for Barça, Arthur did everything and even more for the team. In a central role in midfield, Arthur provided support for the center-backs and the other midfielders. When the team did not control possession, Arthur moved all over the pitch to press and force Spurs into releasing the ball in uncomfortable spots.
Considering that this was just a preseason game, his work rate on the pitch was truly admiring. From maintaining possession to jumpstarting a quick build-up play, Arthur undoubtedly showed what he is capable of as a midfielder.
And to top it off, he scored an exquisite goal that left the Rose Bowl crowd in awe.
3. The youth talents gained crucial experience
For a squad that featured over a dozen players from La Masia, this game provided them with an opportunity to shine. The vast majority of the players were playing in front of the biggest crowd of their careers and against some of the best players they have ever faced. More importantly, they were all playing in front of the manager.
From their effort on the pitch to how they responded under pressure, they all gave encouraging performances. For Jorge Cuenca, Riqui Puig and eight other La Masia boys, this was a game that they will never forget.
Overall, the team performed well and showed very few signs of rust for an opening game of preseason. The new signings each received 45 minutes of playing time and adapted well in what is a completely new play style and system for them. And this game also gave players such as Rafinha and Munir an opportunity to prove their worth to the club and showcase what they are truly capable of.
Barcelona will now fly to Dallas on Sunday to train as they prepare for their second International Champions Cup match, against Roma from the AT&T Stadium in Texas. For the players and coaches, this will not just be another preseason friendly especially after what went down during the Malcom transfer saga.