Barcelona’s friendly against Stefano Pioli’s AC Milan side was notable for the fact that Ousmane Dembele didn’t play any part for the Catalans - a clear indication that his move to Paris Saint-Germain is almost done.
In his absence, the Blaugranes started the match on the front foot and knocked the ball around crisply, working Milan in the opening exchanges.
A strong Rossoneri side gave Barca a decent pre-season run out, and Xavi can be pleased with many aspects of team play during the game, though there’s still plenty for him to work on.
Here are three talking points from the match...
Marcos Alonso out of his depth
Three times in the first 15 minutes Marcos Alonso was found wanting, and on this performance, it’s again difficult to understand what Xavi sees in the player other than his experience.
That certainly didn’t help him when he had to revert to pulling back Christian Pulisic or else the American would’ve easily motored past him.
Nor did it help when Alonso found himself in a decent position for a cross but only ended up sending the ball for a Milan throw in.
On his next foray upfield, he had Pedri and Raphinha in support but succeeded only in giving the ball to the opposition.
He was also lucky when nothing came of a chance for the Serie A side after he was left static by a simple ball played in behind.
A disaster waiting to happen.
Too predictable down the right side
Ousmane Dembele was a lot of things, but one thing he wasn’t was predictable.
That unpredictability is now the preserve of Abde down the left, whereas Raphinha was a little too one-dimensional on the night.
The Brazilian can certainly be relied upon to provide moments of magic, but nine times out of 10, when faced with a direct opponent, he comes inside.
Milan were soon wise to it, bringing across another defender in support and rendering Raphinha’s attempts to get forward moribund.
He needs to add a bit more to his game or Xavi has to switch the play and have Raphinha out on the left in some games in order to mix up the area of attack from a player that has power, pace and crossing ability, as well as being able to score and assist.
The kids are alright
How the pendulum swung once Alejandro Balde and Ansu Fati were introduced.
Fati’s delightful finish clearly injected some confidence into his play. He looked freer than he has for a while on a football pitch and if he can bring that effervescence back to La Liga, Barca will benefit handsomely.
Balde was the difference maker once again. Whilst his final ball could do with a little finessing, his pace and dynamism down the left side were a constant thorn in Milan’s side.
So often the fulcrum of Barca’s attacks in the second half, it’s a shame that a sluggish Robert Lewandowski in the middle wasn’t often on the same wavelength.
Lamine Yamal’s cameo also provided a glimpse of his talent. No fear whatsoever and a willingness to go past players at will.
He’s not just one for the future but one for the present too.