Comeback kings Barcelona start 2024 with a win...just
Barcelona kicked off 2024 with a win and all three points at Las Palmas but only just. In truth it looked like the Catalans would only get a draw until Daley Sinkgraven decided to push Ilkay Gundogan in the back and concede a penalty.
Las Palmas were furious with the decision but the referee really had no choice. Up stepped Gundogan to confidently despatch the penalty and secure the victory in the third minute of stoppage time.
Once again it was not a great performance from Barca, but Xavi can take heart from his side’s ability to come back yet again. This team may be lacking many things right now but they certainly do not give up.
19 - No team has won more points thanks to goals in the last 15 minutes of @LaLigaEn 23/24 than @FCBarcelona_es (19), while only Celta de Vigo (12) and Almería (8) have lost more in this period than #LasPalmas (6, as many as Valencia and Real Sociedad). Push. pic.twitter.com/uEjYVBRYh9— OptaJose (@OptaJose) January 4, 2024
The win also sees Barca move into third place in the table with 41 points from 19 games in La Liga. Incidentally, this tally is the team’s second highest at this stage of the season in the last five seasons.
De Jong gets stuck in for Barcelona
Gundogan is likely to take the plaudits for Barcelona’s win, but it was midfield team-mate Frenkie de Jong who really stood out for the visitors against Las Palmas.
The Dutchman is fit again and firing and played a key role in Barcelona getting anything out of the game, winning all 13 of his duels on Thursday night.
The record books show that he’s the first Barca player to nail all of his duels in a La Liga match for a very long time indeed.
PERFECTION: Frenkie de Jong won each of his 13 duels against Las Palmas, the highest record in a LaLiga match for a Barça player with a 100% success rate since at least the 2005/06 season. #LasPalmasBarça pic.twitter.com/OMozTGqsku— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) January 5, 2024
Talking of stats, the midfielder also boasted a 90% pass completion rate, made five tackles and completed all of his dribbles in a strong performance for Xavi’s side.
With Gavi out injured for the rest of the season, Barcelona really are in need of some grit and security in the heart of midfield and De Jong supplied that against Las Palmas.
Vitor Roque makes Barcelona debut
Barcelona fans had to wait until the 78th minute to see Vitor Roque but the club’s new No. 19 did finally make his debut and came on for Ferran Torres.
The Brazilian youngster didn’t have too much time on the pitch, but his brief cameo was full of energy and offered a tantalising glimpse of what he can bring to the team.
It could have been a dream debut for Vitor Roque too. The Brazilian went agonisingly close with a couple of chances that would have won the game for Barcelona.
Xavi had earlier taken off Robert Lewandowski, after another disappointing showing, and spoke about his attacking options after the match.
“He [Vitor Roque] is going to give us a lot. He can cause problems going in behind when there’s space like today, which is why I changed Robert in the second half,” he said.
“Ferran’s goal gave us wings and the changes worked well after the break. There is a lot of competition in attack now with Roque, Lewandowski, Ferran, João, Raphinha and Lamine. They have to understand that there will be minutes for everyone.”
The arrival of Vitor Roque and Lewandowski’s uninspiring form has already led to claims the Poland international is longer “untouchable” at Barca, and it will be interesting to see how Xavi uses his forward options going forwards.