Take a bow, Fermin Lopez
Fermin Lopez made the very most of his first start in the Champions League by grabbing an assist and a goal to stake a serious claim for a starting spot in Saturday’s Clasico.
Barcelona’s youngsters just can’t resist stealing the headlines and, after Marc Guiu’s heroics at the weekend, it was Lopez who provided the fireworks against Shakhtar.
A lovely run and a shot against the woodwork allowed Ferran Torres to thump home the opener, before Lopez scored an absolute stunner to make it 2-0.
Fermín's goal clocked 230kmh on the radar gun pic.twitter.com/wVQxMrJkjk— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) October 25, 2023
In truth he could have had a hat-trick. He was also denied by the post and saw a lovely header ruled out for a marginal offside in the second half.
It’s not the first time he’s fired an absolute rocket into the top corner in Barca colours. He also did it in pre-season against Real Madrid and would surely love to repeat that on Saturday.
5 - Youngest players to score in their first Champions League start for Barcelona:— OptaJose (@OptaJose) October 25, 2023
1⃣ Giovani dos Santos (18 years and 215 days)
2⃣ Pablo Torre (19 and 212)
3⃣ Sergi Roberto (19 and 302)
4⃣ Sergio Busquets (20 and 98)
5⃣ FERMÍN LÓPEZ (20 and 167)
And it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Lopez start. Xavi has injury problems and the 20-year-old has shown he can offer something different, not least an ability to find the back of the net from midfield.
Ferran’s flying in the Champions League
Ferran Torres spoke ahead of the game about how he felt he was an “old man” of the team with the likes of Marc Guiu, Fermin Lopez, Gavi, and Lamine Yamal around.
Perhaps more importantly, Barca’s shark also said he was ready to make the step up against Shakhtar with so many key players missing the game due to injury.
And that’s exactly what he did. Ferran thumped home the opener which – thanks to VAR – was given despite being originally chalked off. He then unveiled an emotional tribute to his late grandmother: “This one’s for you.”
The goal allowed Barca to relax early on and take control of the game, and the Spain international certainly seems to be enjoying life in the Champions League.
Torres has now scored five goals in eight games for Barca in Europe’s top competition. He’s the quickest Spanish player to hit the milestone for the club, overtaking a certain Luis Enrique.
Barcelona cruising into knockout stages
Barcelona’s win over Shakhtar made it nine points from nine in the Champions League so far, with Xavi’s side looking set to cruise into the knockout round.
The Catalans have failed to make it past the group stage in recent seasons, something Xavi is determined to put right, but are on target to qualify with games to spare as things stand.
Barca are now three points clear ahead of their trip to Germany for the return against Shakhtar and should be confident of another win.
The visitors posed more problems in the second half, but Barca could have scored a few more – something Xavi mentioned afterwards.
“I think Shakhtar really complicated this match for us. They competed for the ball, they wanted to match us – they were good in technical terms,” he said. “We made a couple of errors but in general I’m happy with the quality of our play. I really think we could have won more comprehensively.”
Barcelona should have a far stronger team when the teams meet again. The Catalans traveL to Germany in two weeks’ time which should mean Xavi has recovered several of his injured stars.