Barcelona finish with a flourish
After a rollercoaster season for all sorts of reasons Barcelona managed to produce a good response after the disappointment of losing their title to finish with a flourish.
The club have been bashed all week for throwing away the title and that continued in the build-up with Barca widely mocked for naming a squad of just 16 players for the game at Alaves.
Yet the team responded well with an emphatic win, some great goals, their youngsters impressing and Lionel Messi scooping a record or two for good measure.
Of course it won’t make up for the disappointment of seeing Real Madrid win La Liga, but it was the sort of performance that offered real optimism after a dismal week.
Riqui cements his spot in Barca midfield
One of the highlights of Sunday’s win was the performance of Riqui Puig who came up with a superb showing in midfield and picked up his first two assists for the club.
The 20-year-old could have had a hat-trick too. He sent Luis Suarez away with another clever pass but the Uruguay international could not convert.
2 assists.— LaLiga English (@LaLigaEN) July 19, 2020
3 key passes.
✨ 90% pass success rate.
Riqui Puig just gets better and better... #AlavesBarça pic.twitter.com/zj1lldI0g9
Puig also went agonisingly close to opening his account for the season with a brilliant effort from range that smashed against the crossbar in the opening minutes.
The youngster has surely done enough to secure his promotion to the first-team squad for next season now and may also have a role to play in the Champions League.
Barca are without Sergio Busquets and Arturo Vidal for the second leg against Napoli, due to suspension, which may well mean another chance to impress for Puig.
Ansu and Araujo offer hope for the future
Of course it wasn’t just Riqui Puig who enjoyed himself at Alaves. Ansu Fati ended an impressive breakthrough season with his seventh La Liga goal of 2019-20.
The youngster pounced in the box to finish off Lionel Messi’s cross for the opener and was a real threat down the left with the ball.
Meanwhile, Ronald Araujo came in for Gerard Pique in defence and put in an accomplished showing alongside Clement Lenglet and then Arturo Vidal.
Amongst all the doom and gloom and rumors of big-money buys the young Barca trio of Puig, Ansu and Araujo offer real hope for the future and should all play a big role next season.
Angry Messi still the best Messi
We all know it’s best not to make Lionel Messi angry, and he made his frustration at the club pretty clear in his post-match interview after Thursday’s defeat to Osasuna.
The captain has played every minute since the restart and it was no surprise to see him lead the side out at Alaves again with the Pichichi up for grabs.
Messi went on to finish his campaign in some style. He set up Ansu Fati for the opener to break La Liga’s record for assists and then scored two to make it 25 for the season and become the first player ever to win the Pichichi seven times.
MESSI: 7— LaLiga English (@LaLigaEN) July 19, 2020
Di Stefano: 5
Hugo Sanchez: 5
❤ Lionel Messi wins his SEVENTH top scorer award, more than any other player in #LaLigaHistory! pic.twitter.com/c6TGqLnPtK
The captain also faced the cameras again after the full-time whistle, this time praising his team’s “attitude and commitment” and calling for calm ahead of the Napoli clash.
Some respite for Setien
Sunday’s big win also sees manager Quique Setien earn some respite after a week where all sorts of reports have been made about his future.
Indeed going into the match there were even rumors about Laurent Blanc and Patrick Kluivert potentially coming into the club to replace Setien.
A good performance and a good result was needed at Alaves and that’s exactly what the players came up with to earn their manager some breathing space.
It now looks as though Setien will remain in charge for the Champions League campaign, but his future at Camp Nou could be decided on how his team fares in Europe’s top competition.