All to play for in the second leg
Barcelona and Eintracht Frankfurt played out a lively 1-1 draw on Thursday which means it’s all to play for ahead of the second leg at the Camp Nou next week.
Xavi’s men weren’t at their best in Germany and moaned about the pitch afterwards but still managed to come from behind and grab a draw which is no mean feat in front of a passionate home crowd.
It’s also worth noting that beating Eintracht at home is not an easy task either. The Bundesliga side have never lost at home in a major European competition in the quarter finals or later, winning 12 and drawing 5 of 17 games.
Barca know all about first-leg draws after the ties against Napoli and Galatasaray, which bodes well for the return, but they will also know they must be much better to win at the Camp Nou.
Eintracht Frankfurt showed they can cause Xavi’s side all sorts of problems, particularly with transitions, and will feel that with better finishing they would have won the first leg.
Barcelona have been warned.
Xavi’s subs turn the game around
Xavi opted to make changes for this game with Ousmane Dembele and Frenkie de Jong dropping out, but the duo were needed in the second half to turn the game around and salvage a point.
The two players had only been on the pitch for four minutes when they conjured up a simply glorious equalizer. Dembele started things off with a pass into De Jong who turned the ball around the corner to Ferran. The forward then swapped passes with the Dutchman again before finding the back of net for a vintage Barca goal.
Dembele and De Jong also helped Barca wrestle control of the game back after a difficult first half which the hosts had dominated.
Barca looked calmer, more patient and more confident with the duo on for the final half an hour. Expect both men to start the second leg.
Ferran’s firing for Barca
Ferran’s finish was his seventh in all competitions since signing for Barcelona in January and means he’s now been involved in six goals in his last five games for Xavi’s side which is a fine return from the Spain international.
Ferran Torres has now been directly involved in six goals in his last five games for Barcelona:— Squawka (@Squawka) April 7, 2022
◉ 4 goals
◉ 2 assists
He's found his feet for Barca. #UEL pic.twitter.com/pkd6e6ZxfR
The new boy has had his critics since arriving, particularly with regards his finishing, but looked sharp on Thursday. Indeed he almost gave Barca the perfect start with a wonderful effort in the opening minutes that was tipped over the bar by goalkeeper Kevin Trapp.
Ferran now has seven goals and five assists in 16 appearances for Barca, while three of his goals have come when Barcelona have been behind. It’s obvious Xavi trusts him implicitly and his faith is being rewarded.
Barca suffer Pique injury blow
Barcelona lost Gerard Pique to injury on Thursday. The center-back went off in the first half and Barca subsequently confirmed he has an adductor issue.
Xavi offered an update after the match and says he’s hoping it’s not too bad.
“He has been in pain for quite some time and today he has suffered, hopefully it’s not very serious,” he said after the match.
The sight of Clement Lenglet replacing Pique to partner Eric Garcia in defense was a little concerning but the duo did well and improved as the game wore on. Indeed Eric put in another impressive performance during what was an intense 90 minutes.
| Eric García vs Eintracht.— Barça Buzz (@Barca_Buzz) April 7, 2022
• 117 Touches.
• 99/105 Passes. (Most)
• Highest Passing Accuracy.
• 2 Accurate Long Balls.
• 1 Dispossessed.
• 2 Tackles.
• 5 Clearances.
• 2 Interceptions.
• 3/5 Duels Won.
• 9 Ball Recoveries.
• 0 Fouls.
• 0 Times Dribbled Past. pic.twitter.com/bEHw9bYSUD
Xavi may have some tough decisions to make in defense if Pique is not fit for the second leg. Dani Alves is also unavailable and it’s thought that Sergino Dest won’t be ready in time either.
Ronald Araujo could return to central defense to partner Eric but may be needed at right-back once again. The Uruguayan can fill in at full-back but it’s obviously not his best position.
Learning experience for Pedri and Gavi
Barca’s teenage midfielders Pedri and Gavi found it tough going in Germany as the hosts made the most of the visitors’ narrow midfield to dominate the play in the first half.
Xavi deployed Gavi on the left and Pedri on the right which, interestingly, is in complete contrast to how Luis Enrique utilises the youngsters on Spain duty.
It also didn’t work too well though. Pedri had a quiet game and looks far better on the left than the right. The midfielder didn’t have the impact he’s had in recent matches but did look happier when Frenkie de Jong arrived and he switched flanks.
The Dutchman replaced Gavi on the hour after another tenacious showing from the 17-year-old. Gavi stood out for a couple of important blocks to deny the hosts and a genuine willingness to take the fight to Eintracht Frankfurt
It’s easy to forget Gavi is only 17 and still learning the game at the top level. He remains an important member of the squad and obviously has an exciting future ahead of him but for now Pedri, Frenkie and Busquets look to be Barca’s best midfield three.