Barcelona have been in pre-season action in Japan with friendlies against Chelsea and Vissel Kobe. After a fairly sub-par showing during their 2-1 defeat to the Blues, Barcelona overcame the Japanese outfit 2-0 in what was the last leg of their tour. While seeing club legend Andres Iniesta pitted against Barca on the day appeared bizarre to all parties involved, the fixture would have helped stir up fans’ excitement ahead of the 2019/20 season. Let’s take a look at which of Barca’s hot prospects look most likely to deliver the goods come the opening day of the new season.
While the narrow defeat to Chelsea was disappointing to say the least, Antoine Griezmann did well to establish his intent. With an impeccable first touch and great vision, he showed his ability as an effective target man. He seemed just as hungry during his performance against Vissel Kobe, as he displayed a high work-rate and constantly looked to supply fellow attackers Riqui Puig and Rafinha with a crucial pass. He also seemed to operate naturally in a false nine position. While he is yet to get on the scoresheet or rack up an assist, it’s only a matter of time until he leaves his mark. Griezmann’s adjustment to Barca’s playing style could not have gone any smoother.
Arguably man of the match for the Blaugranes against Chelsea, Puig really showcased his quality against the Blues’ defence and proved that he can be played alongside Barca’s senior stars. He not only showed comfort in his position, but a certain star potential that will certainly make him one of the youngsters to keep an eye on next season. While he didn’t seem as effective against Vissel Kobe, missing a great scoring opportunity, his undoubted flair has certainly become even more evident.
Frenkie de Jong
Barca’s other major summer signing alongside Griezmann, the Dutch youngster has displayed much confidence thus far in his central midfield role. While no Barca player was particularly outstanding against Chelsea, De Jong certainly made some great passes and did well to keep up with Barca’s pace throughout the second half. His performance against Vissel Kobe, on the other hand, was as impressive as anyone could have hoped for. He not only looked calm on the ball, but did well to execute some simple but effective passing. He showed constant creativity, and proved his ability as a playmaker, delivering a burst of energy and enthusiasm with every pass that seemed to rub off on the rest of the Barca offensive.
While seemingly invisible against Chelsea, Perez’s inclusion in the second half of the Vissel Kobe match seemed to flip the game on its head. He showed pace and aggression up front, and seemed raring to get on the scoresheet. With a notably solid partnership with the likes of Dembele and Malcom, Perez showed that he had what it takes to deliver the goods with two terrific strikes that won the game for the Blaugranes. The 21-year-old is yet another Barca youngster who will be itching for game time this season.
While slightly underwhelming in the opener against Chelsea, Dembele picked up his game against Vissel Kobe, and completely rattled the defence throughout the second half. He displayed some good chemistry with Malcom and showed the pace that we’ve all come to know and love. Should he continue to build up momentum in the upcoming friendlies against Arsenal and Chelsea, he will be a prime candidate for a position in the starting lineup in what is an increasingly star-studded team sheet.
While there have been doubts about the Brazilian youngster’s ability to secure a future in the Barca lineup, he has certainly proven his hunger to silence his critics. He did show some drive against Chelsea, albeit that he was mostly under the radar. He improved his showing significantly against Vissel Kobe, thumping a shot onto the crossbar and connecting well with Dembele and Perez. He proved to be a decent supplier to his attacking team-mates, and will certainly be up for consideration in future matches if he extends his last performance against Arsenal and Napoli.