Barcelona make it a Happy 121st Birthday
Barca celebrated the club’s 121st birthday on Sunday and fittingly went on to produce a fine attacking display that yielded four goals, a clean sheet, and all three points.
It was a much-needed win for Ronald Koeman’s side after a disappointing start to their La Liga campaign and follows on from another four-goal victory in midweek against Dynamo Kiev.
Ronald Koeman made changes to his team which worked well. Martin Braithwaite scored again on his first La Liga start, Pedri surprisingly partnered Frenkie de Jong in midfield, and Oscar Mingueza did well on his La Liga debut.
All four attackers got on the scoresheet which also allowed Koeman to rest some of his players in the second half ahead of a busy end to the year. The win moves Barca back in the top half and offers hope they can go on a winning run and propel themselves up the table.
Barca’s defensive injury crisis deepens
The one big negative from Sunday’s win was yet another defensive injury. Clement Lenglet hobbled off in the second half with an ankle problem and joins Ronald Araujo, Samuel Umtiti, and Gerard Pique on the injured list.
All of which means all of Barca’s senior center-backs are currently sidelined, although Koeman did play down Lenglet’s injury after the match. Hopefully the problem is not too serious but it seems highly unlikely the Frenchman will be fit for Ferencvaros.
Mingueza should therefore enjoy more game time. The youngster was guilty of a few stray passess, which Koeman picked him up on after the match, but has otherwise had a great week since being called up for first-team action.
Koeman may now be thinking about calling up some more Barca B defenders to bolster his backline if Lenglet is out for a while, such as Arnau Comas and Santiago Ramos Mingo, although De Jong is also an option at center-back.
Braithwaite gets Barca attack firing
Braithwaite’s two goals against Dynamo Kiev in midweek saw the Denmark international retain his place in the starting XI and the striker certainly helped get the Barca attack firing against Osasauna.
4 - Martin Braithwaite has been involved in four of the last five FC Barcelona's goals in all competitions (three goals and one assist). Run. pic.twitter.com/ZfHloRwFEQ— OptaJose (@OptaJose) November 29, 2020
Antoine Griezmann seemed to thrive with a No. 9 on the pitch and notably linked up well with Braithwaite and Lionel Messi in what was easily the Frenchman’s best performance of the season.
Braithwaite also scored again with an untidy effort that broke the deadlock. It certainly wasn’t the prettiest goal he’s ever scored but Braithwaite won’t care after netting his third goal in two games for the Catalan giants
Griezmann hitting form
Barcelona’s first may not have been a looker but the second came from an absolute cracker from Griezmann. The Frenchman unleashed a brilliant volley from outside their area that simply flew past goalkeeper Sergio Herrera.
Griezmann has now scored in back-to-back games for Barcelona for the first time and is clearly finding some form after a tough start. It’s four goals and two assists for Griezmann now in his last six outings and the forward drew praise from Koeman after the match.
“Today he looked like the player we all want to see, someone who fights, who works hard and is effective in front of goal. He played with a lot of freedom, he provided an assist and scored a great goal. He has not changed, he has always worked as hard as he could, but today he created a lot more space with his movement. And his goal is sure to give him confidence.”
This is certainly the Griezmann that Barca will hope they see more of now. He had earlier teed up a great chance for Coutinho after showing great feet to go around Herrera and then set up the Brazilian again for Barca’s third.
Messi’s perfect tribute
Barca’s fourth came, fittingly, from the feet of Lionel Messi with his seventh goal of the season and just his second from open play. It was another lovely goal from the Barcelona captain who paid a pretty perfect tribute to Diego Maradona with his celebration.
Koeman was impressed with Messi’s strike and also the way he dedicated his goal to Maradona by taking off his shirt to reveal a Newell’s Old Boys jersey underneath.
“These are the things of a great player: first because of the play and the goal, and second because of the gesture towards Maradona. It was something really great in every sense.”
Messi was back in the team after being rested in midweek and looked to have benefited from his breather. The captain also seemed happier with Braithwaite in the line-up which allowed him greater freedom.