Barcelona negotiate tricky test
Barcelona made hard work of Intercity last time out in the Copa del Rey and were taken to extra-time before prevailing but saw off Ceuta without too many problems.
A trip south that involved a plane and three helicopters saw Xavi manage to rest his key men, offer his squad players some game time and come out with a comfortable win.
Raphinha, Robert Lewandowski, Franck Kessie and Ansu Fati supplied the goals, while there was another clean sheet from a much-changed backline.
Ángel Alarcón ha debutat amb el primer equip— FC Barcelona - Masia (@FCBmasia) January 19, 2023
Debut de Ángel Alarcón con el primer equipo en la victoria Ceuta de octavos de final de la Copa del Rey (0-5)
There was also the opportunity to hand Angel Alarcon his debut. With Memphis gone and finances tight it may not be the last time we see him this season. Xavi clearly seems to be a fan of the youngster but has already said he wants a replacement for Memphis.
It wasn’t the most exciting performance of the season but Barca got the job done, avoided a potential banana skin and can now look forward to a place in the quarter-finals.
Kessie sends strong message
Franck Kessie headed into the match amid doubts about his future at Barca but emerged as one of the stars of the show against Ceuta.
The rumor mill keeps on talking about a potential swap with Inter but Kessie sent out a strong message to Barcelona with his most effective performance since joining.
Franck Kessie had two assists, and then he did THIS: pic.twitter.com/HOvvCfXwtQ— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) January 20, 2023
The Ivorian had a hand in Raphinha’s opener and then did well to tee up Lewandowski to make it 2-0. A deft header ensured he was also on the scoresheet in Barca’s big win.
Kessie’s performance won’t be enough to quieten the rumors but on this performance there seems to be very little reason to swap him right now. He’s never going to be a regular starter but he can be a very useful part of the squad.
Let’s not forget he’s only been at the club a matter of months, faces intense competition for a place, and deserves a chance to show what he can do.
Tough night for Pablo Torre
While Kessie was enjoying himself against Ceuta, it was a very different story indeed for young Pablo Torre who was hooked at half-time.
Torre didn’t seem to be injured and there was no explanation offered up after the game about the substitution. It seems simply that Xavi really was not impressed with his first-half contribution.
Barca weren’t great in the first half it has to be said, against a team bottom of Group 1 of the Spanish third division, but threw Gavi on in place of Torre at half-time and went on to score another four times in the second half.
It’s a tough moment for Torre who is struggling to make much of an impression in his first season at the Camp Nou. His best chance of minutes looks to be in the Copa del Rey but he has work to do to convince Xavi to start him in the quarter-finals.
Lewandowski adds Copa goals to his collection
Robert Lewandowski has scored in pretty much every competition he’s ever graced and he can now add the Copa del Rey to his vast collection.
The striker might not have played if he wasn’t currently serving a league suspension but was in the XI and scored twice. That’s now 22 goals and four assists this season from 23 games for Barca.
️ XAVI: "Today, Robert [Lewandowski] showed that he is a tremendous professional. With the same attitude as the day of the final. Perfect. Perfect for him because he’s getting minutes." pic.twitter.com/d6KYRrBKzG— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) January 19, 2023
Kessie did well down the right to run clear and pick out Lewandowski who swept home his first Copa goal. Lewandowski’s second made it 5-0 late in the game and saw the Poland international curl home a low finish.
Lewandowski now has three goals in his last two games for Barcelona but must now return to the bench against Getafe. He will be a big miss.
Ferran toils as Ansu and Raphinha shine
Ansu Fati will take over from Lewandowski against Getafe and continued his recent resurgence with a well-taken goal after coming off the bench.
It’s another sign that maybe, just maybe, Ansu is coming back to his best. He’ll have another chance to show what we can do at the weekend. Keep your fingers crossed everyone.
This game also provided a much-needed morale boost for Raphinha. The Brazilian broke the deadlock for Barcelona with a low curling effort that nestled into the bottom corner.
It’s Raphinha’s third goal for Barcelona in what has been a tricky debut season at the Camp Nou. There have been rumors of interest from Arsenal, although they will likely disappear with Leandro Trossard on the way.
Ferran Torres is also having a tough campaign which plunged to new depths against Ceuta in a dismal showing. The winger is out of form, seems to have zero confidence and you get the feeling he’s starting to test the club’s patience. Can he turn things around at Barca?