Jose Arnaiz is clinical in the Copa del Rey
It was good to see Jose Arnaiz’s name on the team sheet and he did not disappoint, grabbing yet another Copa del Rey goal with a sharp finish after good work from Andre Gomes.
The 22-year-old scored in both games against Murcia in the last round and has shown clinical finishing in the tournament so far.
3 - Jose Arnaiz has scored with his first three shots on target for Barcelona in all competitions (three goals in Copa del Rey). Stellar. pic.twitter.com/1OyXS2msIh— OptaJose (@OptaJose) January 4, 2018
It was also a performance that spells bad news for Gerard Deulofeu who didn’t even make the matchday squad and his future at the club is starting to look pretty bleak.
New year but Barca’s woodwork curse continues
A feature of Barca’s season so far has been the team’s unerring ability to hit the woodwork.
And they were at it again at Balaidos. Sergio Busquets got them started with a glorious strike from range that smacked the crossbar with goalkeeper Sergio beaten.
Sergi Roberto also saw an effort clip the outside of the post late on as they were denied victory by the frame of the goal.
In truth, Barca’s finishing was a little off all night, with Denis Suarez also guilty of a glaring miss from a glorious opportunity.
Second leg set up nicely for Barcelona
This tie is set up really nicely for Barcelona after coming away from a tricky game with a 1-1 draw and an away goal.
It’s even more impressive when you consider Barcelona started with so many players who have been written off (Thomas Vermaelen, Paulinho, Andre Gomes, Aleix Vidal) and a B team striker in Arnaiz up front.
The team were without the big guns with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez not even in the squad, although that may change for the second leg.
Celta just love playing Barca
Celta have already proved in recent seasons, and indeed earlier in this campaign, that they can cause Barca all sorts of problems and they did so again at Balaidos.
Sisto and Iago Aspas gave the Barca defence a tough evening while Emre Mor could have won it late on.
12 - Celta Vigo have scored 12 goals against Barcelona in the last three seasons (all competitions), more than any other side. Bravery. pic.twitter.com/HZ13yH4Z5s— OptaJose (@OptaJose) January 4, 2018
All of which means this tie is far from done and it would be a surprise if Celta did not score in the return leg at Camp Nou,.
Barca may have the slight advantage but it would be no surprise if Ernesto Valverde went for a slightly stronger lineup next week.
Semedo has a stormer
Nelson Semedo has had to watch Sergi Roberto take the right-back slot in recent weeks but he was handed the start and was one of Barca’s brightest performers.
His sizzling pace caused Celta problems at the back and he had the pace and energy to get back and deny Aspas a golden chance.
It’s one of his strongest performances in a Barca shirt and may have given Valverde something to think about when it comes to the right-back slot.
Dembele returns but patience is required
Finally after what seems like forever Ousmane Dembele made his long-awaited return to action.
The summer signing arrived in the 71st minute and showed a few glimpses in a brief cameo.
Will he start against Levante? It’s difficult to say, there’s a sense that Barca want to ease him back really gently and expecting too much too soon will not help him.