Well that was easy on the eyes.
With the league all but decided, it’s performances that are paramount now. A sign of positive things to come in the upcoming campaign.
Maybe some valuable information gleaned about who should stay, and who’s surplus to requirements.
Andreas Christensen made his impact felt right away, rising up with his bash brother in arms Araujo, and beating him in the air for a picture perfect header into the ground, opening up the festival of football against a formidable Betis team.
With a bit of luck, the Verdiblancos were soon down to 10 men, and the result was never in doubt.
What happened next, however, was months in the making.
Barca put their talents on display and had fun.
No overthinking, just trusting one another, and letting the football flow.
Raphinha must have felt the pressure of knowing Ousmane Dembele was coming on in the second half. This was his chance to prove he still has something to contribute, and he made sure to make his mark, with a killer assist, and trademark industrious run into the box for a goal.
Robert Lewandowski looked like himself again. With his team-mates stepping up to perform their roles around him, the Polish superstar did what he does best as a navigator of the final third, finding his spots in dangerous spaces, and could have had at least a hat-trick if his team-mates were a bit sharper in providing service.
The midfield quartet had a jam session, and the defensive line of the future showed once again what we can look forward to for years to come.
For me, with the game done and dusted, this one was about the return of Ousmane Dembele, and the introduction of Yamine Lamal to the world.
Dembele’s presence is a game changer.
The defense backs off, and the game opens up. The midfield has more space to operate, and the Frenchman is always the target man in transition.
He is an absolute joy to watch. A showman. Worth the price of admission on his own.
With Dembele playing, the field lights up with electricity. It’s fast, exciting, and unpredictable.
Maybe as fans, some of us have been a bit harsh on Barcelona in recent weeks.
The results haven’t been good, even while the league is locked up. Perhaps what frustrates so many of us isn’t just the dropped points, but how unattractive the games have been. Culers expect beautiful football from their beloved team.
Dembele brings that back. He reads the game like he’s playing in the matrix, two steps ahead of everyone else who simply can’t keep up. Granted, there is still room for improvement in front of goal, as he reminded us of with a botched tap in assist.
But his impact is undeniable, transforming the team into the best version of itself. Xavi’s backing of Dembele was courageous, and deserves recognition.
But Lamal was the real headline on the night. 15 years old and further proof that the Barca academy still produces the promise of greatness.
We have been dying to see this kid play, and the moment finally arrived.
The rest of the season may seem meaningless, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Barca can have fun again.
Fans can dream again if we get the chance to see more of Yamal.
Players like Raphinha and Ansu Fati, who also deserves a shout out for his moment of brilliance, can be given one last opportunity to prove they have a future with the club.
How will Xavi manage things the rest of the way?
Will he shake things up, and try new players, and maybe some new ways of playing?
Or will he take the conservative route and go with what’s familiar?
If I’m tuning in, and I certainly plan to, I want to be entertained, and I want to see what the future looks like.
I have a feeling I’m not alone.
That was a fun Saturday night in the rain at the Camp Nou.
More of that please.