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Barcelona’s ‘second string’ still have much to prove

Conundrum for Xavi

Atletico de Madrid v FC Barcelona - LaLiga Santander Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images

For Barcelona to genuinely be challenging for silverware at the end of the current campaign, Xavi will need to be able to fully utilise his first-team squad.

Games against supposed ‘inferior’ opposition, with respect, allows the coach to be able to rotate his starting XI significantly, if required.

Against Ceuta on Thursday evening, the perfect opportunity arose for those players stuck on the fringes to produce performances of note.

Performances that would give Xavi serious food for thought, both for the immediate future and towards the business end of the 2022-23 campaign.

Until just before half-time when Raphinha opened the scoring with a pinpoint low finish, there was little to write home about.

FC Barcelona v RCD Espanyol - LaLiga Santander Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images

Dare we say it but the game was instantly forgettable in many respects.

The Supercup final win was a real feather in the cap, but it was back to business in the Copa del Rey and, frankly, most of Barca’s players weren’t at it for long periods of the opening 45.

Is it wrong to expect the same level of commitment every time that the shirt is pulled on?

It should be a privilege to wear the blaugrana, but the way in which some players were dragging themselves around the pitch in the opening half hour was embarrassing.

Perhaps it’s unfair to pick on individuals, but this is Barca we are talking about and no one gets a free ride.

Ferran Torres, against the lowest ranked team left in the competition, still couldn’t motivate himself enough to turn in the kind of sparkling and energetic showing that everyone knows he is capable of but has rarely shown.

Atletico de Madrid v FC Barcelona - LaLiga Santander Photo by Mateo Villalba/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

The only surprise on the night was how long it took Xavi to replace him with Ansu Fati.

In truth, Raphinha wasn’t an awful lot better but at least he redeemed himself with the goal.

At the back, Eric Garcia did what he had to do but nothing more. Considering how much he was being talked up just a few months ago, the Spaniard has had a rapid fall from grace and, like his contemporaries, is finding it difficult to reproduce the form, authority and composure which we know he has in his locker.

A comfortable win by the end of proceedings shouldn’t gloss over the fact that, with a quarter-final to come, there’s a strong likelihood that Xavi can’t afford to be taking any more risks in the cup competition.

So, where does that leave those players that can’t get a regular start and aren’t offering anywhere near the level required to be a success at our club...?

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