A rotated Barça against a Celta Vigo side that are fighting an intense battle for survival. That was the tale of Saturday night’s match. And it turned out to be a fairytale ending for the home side with their frontmen Maxi Gomez and Iago Aspas firing two goals past Jasper Cillessen to secure three vital points. Yet despite, the 2-0 blaugrana defeat, and the slice to Barça’s impeccable away record in the domestic competition, there are several positives that can be taken from the 90 minutes of football played at Balaidos.
Ernesto Valverde gave his lineup a whole different look with the reserve and several Barça B players getting the nod to feature against Aspas and Co. And it goes without saying that the midfield stuck out the most: Riqui Puig, Carles Aleñá and Arthur Melo. Three young players that have similar traits to those of club legends Xavi and Andres Iniesta. The creative and dreamy midfielders had everyone buzzing, desperately waiting for the referee to blow the start whistle. And to no surprise the youngsters who embody the Barça DNA, did not disappoint, registering over 90% passing accuracy.
In the first half, they put on a show in the center of the field, swiftly moving the ball around with elegance and class. But the real beauty came from the feet of Riqui and Aleñá, who displayed a type of chemistry that cannot be taught. The pair would find each other without the need to even look up. It was as if they were magnetically in-sync with one another, as if they were the football version of Bonnie and Clyde - an exceptionally positive sign for La Masia, the club’s famous academy.
Puig and Aleñá, promises of the future
Despite his young age, Riqui showed a fearless character, constantly on the hunt for the ball. And when he did receive the ball, it was pure magic. The Catalan flaunted a handful of fancy routlettes that left fans wanting more. Every touch, pass and movement had even the neutral supporters excited for what was to come next. Riqui left his stamp at Balaidos with 92.5% passing accuracy with 62 accurate passes. Meanwhile, his compatriot Aleñá did not fall short with 92.2% accuracy having made 71 passes. The Mataro-born player attempted 44 passes in the first half, registering 41 successful passes, at least 25 more than any Celta Vigo player.
44 - Carlos Aleña attempted 44 passes in the first half (41 sucessful passes), at least 25 more than any Celta de Vigo player (Gustavo Cabral, 19). Freshness. pic.twitter.com/GAblls1VtX— OptaJose (@OptaJose) May 4, 2019
Wague, a guarantee in defense
Another takeaway that left Valverde smiling was Moussa Wague’s 90-minute performance. In just his second feature with the first team, the versatile Senegalese blossomed on the right flank. With strong runs down the sidelines, powerfully built shots, and daring dribbles, his mind and feet proved to be developed way beyond his years. And his numbers tell the same story: 50 passes, 86% pass accuracy, three key passes, three successful dribbles, one shot, three tackles, one clearance.
The Blaugrana might have fell to a desperate Celta side battling it out to stay afloat in the Primera Division, but the likes of Riqui, Aleñá and Wague smoothed out the defeat, giving some glimpses of a fruitful future at Barcelona.