Frenkie the goal machine
Another game and another goal for Frenkie de Jong who has transformed himself into something of a goal machine in recent weeks. The Dutchman hit the winner against Rayo Vallecano with what was his fifth of the season.
There’s no doubt at all that De Jong is in red-hot form in front of goal right now.
4 - Frenkie de Jong has scored four goals in his last seven games for @FCBarcelona in all competitions, one more than he’d netted in his previous 62 matches for the club (3 goals). Liberated. pic.twitter.com/0updsAE766— OptaJose (@OptaJose) January 27, 2021
De Jong might have scored earlier in the game but hit the crossbar, something Riqui Puig and Lionel Messi also managed, as Barca struggled in front of goal to start with.
Yet the visitors sprang into life after going behind with De Jong thumping home the winner from close range following a Jordi Alba cross with 10 minutes left to play.
It was an important strike too which ensured Barca avoided playing extra-time for the fourth time this month and instead safely took their place in the quarter-finals.
Messi loves playing Rayo
Barcelona’s equalizer had come from the feet of Lionel Messi who was back in the team after a two-match suspension and making his 76th appearance in the Copa del Rey, a new Barcelona record.
The Argentine also got his team back on level terms from an Antoine Griezmann cross after Fran Garcia had given the hosts a shock lead. That’s now 15 for the season for Messi, something he has done many, many times before.
15 - Lionel Messi has scored 15+ goals in each of his last 15 seasons for @FCBarcelona in all competitions (15 in 2020/21). Infallible. pic.twitter.com/t436IggBkO— OptaJose (@OptaJose) January 27, 2021
The skipper also played a big role in De Jong’s winner. It was Messi’s ball out to Jordi Alba that created the chance, while he probably ought to have added a third late on but dwelt too long on the ball.
Messi looked happy to be back in action and certainly seems to enjoy taking on Rayo Vallecano. He now has 18 goals in just 11 appearances against the Madrid-based side.
Barca making hard work of the Copa del Rey
Barca may be safely into the quarter-finals but there’s no doubt they made life hard for themselves again in the Copa del Rey. Koeman’s men needed extra-time to see off Cornella in the last round and the coach had to call on the cavalry once again after seeing his team go behind.
Pedri, Ousmane Dembele, and Jordi Alba all came off the bench after Barca had gone 1-0 down and helped the team to victory. Alba was a vast improvement on the left and set up the winner, while a great pass to Messi from Pedri should have resulted in a third.
Of course Barca had been a little unfortunate in front of goal before the substitutions. The visitors hit the woodwork three times, while Francisco Trincao might have won a penalty (or even two) on another night.
Lenglet, Junior struggles continue
Barca also had difficulties in defense where Clement Lenglet was back in the team in place of Samuel Umtiti but continued to struggle. The Frenchman is in the midst of a difficult season and again cost his team a goal.
Lenglet was beaten far too easily by Alvaro for the opener, and Koeman will surely be concerned about the Frenchman’s continued poor form.
Junior Firpo also failed to impress at left-back in a performance that will surely push him closer to the Barca exit door. The 24-year-old was poor going forward, something that was highlighted further when Alba arrived and promptly delivered some quality into the final third.
Riqui & Trincao earn Koeman praise
There was also more game time for Riqui Puig and Trincao who both started the match as Koeman made changes to his starting XI. Puig was hooked at half-time last time out against Cornella but did make it out for the second half this time around.
After opening his account for Barca at the weekend he almost scored his second but was denied by the crossbar. Trincao also could have got his name on the scoresheet but saw a shot saved by Stole Dimitrievski when he probably ought to have passed.
Both players were taken off after Barca went behind but still did enough to earn praise from their manager after the match.
“They played a good game. Trincao has created danger and Riqui has been good between the lines where there were a lot of people and the field was not good but he has worked a lot. The changes have been to give freshness.”
The jury’s still out on Trincao who is yet to score for Barca in 24 appearances, while Koeman’s comments suggests Puig may slowly be finally winning over his manager.