It’s been a long few months for FC Barcelona and Ronald Araujo.
The Uruguayan had proved beyond doubt that he was ready to assume the responsibility of being a major component of Barca’s first team, anchoring the defence.
Prior to his ill-timed injury, he’d shown on more than one occasion that he wasn’t too shabby at the opposite end of the field too, and it was he that opened the scoring against Intercity with a trademark bullet header from a set piece.
The goal owed much to the quality of Pablo Torre’s delivery, and the youngster is certainly beginning to make a name for himself in the cameo appearances that he’s being handed by Xavi.
There’s an awful lot that the coach can learn from the victory. His side controlled the game from the opening few moments and into the break.
Copa del Rey ties against lower division opposition can often prove to be a banana skin, and it’s probably with that in mind that Xavi afforded the hosts respect by naming a relatively strong starting XI.
There really was no way through in the first 45 as both Araujo and Jules Kounde afforded Inaki Pena maximum protection at the back.
Ten minutes before the break, Araujo once again evidenced his incredible aerial prowess with an astonishing leap. A pity on that occasion that his header drifted wide.
Notwithstanding that the pair attacked the same ball leading to the first equaliser, ahead of a much stiffer test against Atletico Madrid, a match that will see Barca shorn of Jordi Alba and Robert Lewandowski, the coach should be encouraged that the Rojiblanco attack will need to be at it if they want to take anything from Sunday night’s showpiece.
Xavi will certainly understand after Wednesday evening’s second-half shenanigans, that he can’t contemplate bringing Marcos Alonso back into the fold from the get-go.
His substitution was a disaster, and it wasn’t the only poor decision the Catalans made on the night. That will be of concern.
At least Torre’s tricks and flicks provided some entertainment value, but these weren’t just for the crowd-pleasing aesthetic.
Each pirouette had a purpose, and his speed of thought and execution was a joy to witness once more.
Culers would be within their rights to question why, before Wednesday evening’s game, that he’d only had 13 minutes to his name this season, and why he had to be sacrificed so early in this one. This kid’s ready.
If there’s one criticism of Xavi’s Barca it’s that they can be a little too predictable at times, and therefore easier to play against.
A player like Pablo Torre gives them something special in tight areas. The key to the lock that wins you games.