Defensive solidity returns as Barca escape with a win
Barcelona’s defense has looked a little vulnerable this season but kept out a determined Porto on Wednesday to ensure Xavi’s side made it two wins out of two in the Champions League.
The Catalans will return home from Portugal with all three points but the result doesn’t tell the whole story, as Porto will feel unlucky not to have taken anything from Wednesday’s encounter.
Barca needed last-ditch challenges from Ronald Araujo and Kounde to keep a clean sheet, while Marc-Andre ter Stegen had to be at his best again as Porto created plenty of chances in the second half.
VAR also helped out Barcelona too. A penalty conceded by Joao Cancelo was chalked off after it was shown that Eustaquio had committed a handball before the Barcelona right-back.
Mehdi Taremi then scored a brilliant bicycle kick, only to see his effort rightly ruled out for a narrow onside. Barcelona created very little in contrast but won’t really care. They depart with all three points but plenty of question marks after an unconvincing showing.
Ferran Torres - better as a sub?
Barcelona were finding it tough going against Porto and looked in for an even tougher night when Robert Lewandowki limped off and joined Pedri, Frenkie de Jong and Raphinha on the injured list.
On came Ferran Torres in his place who looked sharp and hungry to make an impact. And that’s exactly what he did - taking just 10 minutes to open the scoring. A Porto mistake allowed Ilkay Gundogan to tee up Ferran and he came up with a lovely finish to make it 1-0.
Ferran has had his detractors but looks a different animal this season and certainly is proving an effective weapon away from home in Europe.
Barcelona have now scored five goals in their last five away games in the Champions League and three of those have come from Ferran Torres. Unfortunately for him, he still seems more effective as a substitute than a starter.
Xavi hits 100 not out
Barca may not have been at their best but it was certainly a satisfying evening for Xavi. The Barca boss has made it clear his team have to get out of the group stages this season and this win is a big step towards qualification.
The result also made it a good night for Xavi on his 100th match in charge of the Catalans.
It wasn’t entirely convincing but Barca have now won consecutive away games in the Champions League for the first time since 2020. The team have also kept two clean sheets in a row in the Champions League for the first time since 2017-18.
How serious is Lewandowski’s injury?
Barca’s win was marred by the sight of Lewandowski going off. The striker couldn’t continue after a heavy challenge but there is hope. He didn’t go straight down the tunnel and sat on the bench with an ice-pack - suggesting it’s just a knock.
Xavi said as much after the game which will be a relief although it’s thought he will miss the weekend’s clash with Granada. With Pedri, De Jong and Raphinha out injured, the last thing Barca need is to lose Robert Lewandowski as well.
Lewandowski is set to undergo further tests to determine the severity of the injury, and it looks as though the international break could be coming at a good time for Barca as injuries to players start to pile up.
Gavi red could leave Barca short
One player who is definitely out of Barcelona’s next Champions League match is Gavi. The teenager picked up a second booking late on and was given his marching orders. The red card means a one-match ban for the teenager.
If there’s anything Gavi needs to cut out of his game it’s his penchant for picking up bookings like this one. His tenacity and commitment are much-needed in this Barca team, but it’s something he’s already admitted he needs to learn.
“Sometimes I watch the replays of the matches, I look at some plays think... ‘Holy sh*t, why did I do that?’” he told La Vanguardia before the match.
The bigger concern for Barca is who will play in midfield next time out with Gavi out. There’s no guarantee Pedri of De Jong will be back by the time Shakhtar visit Montjuic which could leave Xavi short of options in midfield.