Joao Felix makes his point
There’s only one place to start after Barcelona’s win over Atletico and that’s with the man of the moment Joao Felix.
Barcelona’s loanee was the match-winner against his former club and was more than happy to celebrate by jumping up on the advertising hoardings.
Felix said afterwards the celebration was a big release after a frustrating time at Atletico before being granted his dream move to Barcelona.
The former Atletico man certainly seemed more fired up than usual, while his ex-team-mates also did not hold back against the forward.
Jose Gimenez squared up to Felix, forcing Koke to intervene at one point, but in the end it was Felix who had the last laugh by scoring the goal to take all three points.
Full marks for Inaki Pena
Barcelona had to turn to Inaki Pena again on Sunday with Marc-Andre ter Stegen ruled out through injury once more and saw the youngster put in another impressive showing.
The highlight was his superb save from a goal-bound Memphis Depay free-kick, but he also made a crucial late block to deny Antoine Griezmann.
All of which brought some well-deserved applause from his team-mates in the dressing room after the final whistle.
Xavi was also more than happy with his stand-in stopper after the vital win at Montjuic.
“Inaki Pena is such an example. He trains hard and that’s why he performs the way he does. He gets ten out of ten for some extraordinary saves,” said Xavi afterwards.
Barca’s back-up has had to be really patient but has stepped up when needed and may well get more chances in the first team in the coming weeks.
There’s speculation Ter Stegen may be out for a little while longer and possibly needs surgery on his back issue. Fortunately Pena’s form means Barca needn’t rush his return.
Time to worry about Robert Lewandowski?
Robert Lewandowski is having something of a difficult second season at Barcelona and struggled again on Sunday against Atletico.
The Poland international has lacked service in certain games but that certainly wasn’t the case at Montjuic. Lewandowski had the chances but his finishing was wayward.
The 35-year-old has still scored seven La Liga goals this season but there are concerns that he’s not quite the same as he used to be.
Lewandowski before the World Cup for Barcelona:— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) December 2, 2023
- 19 matches
- 18 goals
Lewandowski after the World Cup for Barcelona:
- 43 matches
- 23 goals pic.twitter.com/UBmlSnkAGP
He’s only scored in two of his last ten Barcelona games, a worrying statistic, and hasn’t found the back of the net since returning from the international break.
Lewandowski’s place in the team may also be about to come under threat.
It’s now been confirmed that Vitor Roque will arrive in January, and the youngster will hopefully provide Lewandowski with some serious competition for a starting spot.
What’s Barca’s best defense?
Xavi left Alejandro Balde on the bench once again on Sunday night, with Joao Cancelo featuring again at left-back and Jules Kounde on the right.
The Barcelona boss then partnered Ronald Araujo and Inigo Martinez in central defense, although Andreas Christensen eventually started alongside the Uruguayan after an injury in the warm-up that will keep Inigo sidelined for a while.
MEDICAL NEWS | Tests carried out have revealed that Íñigo Martínez has a right hamstring injury. He is out and his recovery will determine his availability. pic.twitter.com/0BphvBTLHr— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) December 4, 2023
Kounde, Araujo and Christensen were all superb in a performance that made you wonder if Xavi has stumbled upon his best backline.
Alejandro Balde may have something to say about that but the youngster appears to have fallen out of favor and has work to do to get back into the starting XI.
We all know that Kounde (and Araujo for that matter) don’t really want to play at right-back for Barcelona. The problem is that both have done a fine job in that position recently.
Barca back on track after great week
Barcelona’s win followed on from their qualification for the last 16 of the Champions League in midweek after seeing off Porto.
All of which means it’s been a great week for Xavi’s side who will feel back on track and heading in the right direction after a rough patch.
The return from injury of Frenkie de Jong and Pedri has obviously helped. The duo, and Ilkay Gundogan, were imressive against Atletico in just their third outing together.
“The team was excellent today. It’s a game we should have won by more. I am very satisfied and happy with how we played. It was a complete performance with the exception of the last five minutes,” said Xavi.
“Atlético pressed us in the second half, but we have seen our most complete performance of the season. It’s a sign that we grow when the big games come around. We have to demand that we always plays like this.
Another big challenge awaits at the weeked against Girona, who sit four points ahead of Xavi’s side, but they can be reeled in with another good performance by the champions.