Ansu gets Barca fans dreaming again
Barca fans haven’t had much to get excited about in recent weeks but the return of Ansu Fati on Sunday certainly got pulses racing at the Camp Nou.
Just seeing the 18-year-old back on the pitch after 323 days on the sidelines with a knee injury and the youngster’s smile as he ran on was something else.
Fati was straight back into the action and was unlucky not to win a penalty within minutes of his arrival. The decision wasn’t given but that didn’t seem to bother the 18-year-old one little bit.
With the game into stoppage time, the forward picked up possession, swivelled past a couple of defenders and then ran through on goal and smashed an early low shot past Aitor Fernandez.
It was a brilliant moment as the Camp Nou rose as one to salute their young hero with the No. 10 on his back for the first time. Fati ran into the stands to celebrate with the medical team, while his father couldn’t hold back the tears, and Barca fans started to dream again.
Nico and Gavi are here to stay
Fati wasn’t the only teenager getting fans excited about Barcelona’s future. Nico Gonzalez and Gavi both started the match in midfield and showed once again just how much they have to offer.
Ansu & Gavi: A life together as . pic.twitter.com/D5f0NyprkP— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) September 26, 2021
Gavi had looked set to steal all the headlines after a superb display in midfield, but ended up being overshadowed by Ansu’s moment of magic, while Nico grew into the match after a slow start.
| Pablo Paéz 'Gavi' vs Levante.— Barça Buzz (@Barca_Buzz) September 26, 2021
• 67 Touches.
• 44/50 Passes.
• 3/4 Accurate Long Balls.
• 2 Shots.
• 1 Big Chance Missed.
• 8/12 Duels Won.
• 5/5 Dribbles Completed.
• 2/2 Aerials Won.
• 6 Ball Recoveries.
• 1 Foul Won. pic.twitter.com/yQOFr9ZhKm
Barca lost Ilaix Moriba over the summer but the 18-year-old has already been swiftly forgotten about such are the riches the Catalan giants now have in midfield.
The future of the Barca midfield looks very safe indeed with Nico and Gavi joining Frenkie de Jong, Pedri, and Riqui Puig as options and with Jandro Orellana potentially the next to make the breakthrough.
Dest enjoying life on the left
There was also a standout performance in defense where 20-year-old Sergino Dest played out of position again at left-back but thoroughly enjoyed himself against Levante.
This was Dest’s best performance for Barcelona in a long time and saw the USMNT star pick up just his second assist for the Catalan giants in the first half.
Dest sent Luuk de Jong through on goal with a perfectly-weighted pass that was just begging to be put away and the Netherlands international duly obliged.
The stats show just how impressive Dest was on Sunday.
Sergiño Dest (20) v. Levante:— Football Wonderkids (@fbwonderkids) September 26, 2021
☑️ 89 minutes
️ 1 assist
4 chances created
5/6 dribbles won
8 ball recoveries
⚔️ 11 duels won
A very, very good day for Dest. pic.twitter.com/eOqcBTAalk
Playing on the left allows Dest to cut inside and link with more of his teammates, and he could well continue in that position against Benfica with Jordi Alba expected to miss out once again due to injury.
Barcelona’s Dutch duo deliver
Barcelona’s Dutch duo Memphis Depay and Luuk de Jong were also on the scoresheet with early goals that made it a comfortable afternoon for the hosts.
Memphis looked far brighter after a quiet couple of games, winning and scoring a penalty, and probably should have had a few more but couldn’t beat Aitor Fernandez again.
Meanwhile, De Jong opened his account for his new club with a confident finish from a cute pass by Sergino Dest that sent him through on goal.
2 - Two different Dutch players (Memphis Depay and Luuk de Jong) have scored in the same LaLiga game for the first time since March 2009 in Athletic-Real Madrid at San Mamés (Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Arjen Robben). Orange. pic.twitter.com/4fCK14kTSt— OptaJose (@OptaJose) September 26, 2021
The tall striker admitted it was “beautiful” to score his first goal for Barcelona after failing to find the back of the net in his first three appearances for his new club.
De Jong’s already attracted plenty of criticism but took his goal well and worked hard throughout the 90 minutes. It was a good moment for the 31-year-old who will know game time will be hard to come by once Barca’s injured attackers return.
What now for Koeman?
Barca’s win over Levante came amid continuing speculation about Ronald Koeman’s future at the Camp Nou. The Dutchman still seems on very thin ice but it’s still not clear if any of Barca’s reported targets are willing to take on the job right now.
Koeman was forced to watch the game from the stands due to his touchline ban which meant Alfred Schreuder and his tight trousers took over. The assistant coach was noticeably vocal on the touchline as he urged his players on and shouted instructions throughout the 90 minutes.
A much-needed win duly arrived and may relieve some of the pressure on Koeman, for now at least, while the return of Ansu Fati will add some much-needed positivity around the club. The Barca boss was certainly happy to see the teenager back in action.
An important win today! Happy for @ansufati, who returned with a goal after a long time of rehabilitation! #ForçaBarça— Ronald Koeman (@RonaldKoeman) September 26, 2021
Una victoria importante hoy! Feliz por @ansufati, que ha vuelto con un gol después de un largo tiempo de recuperación! #ForçaBarça pic.twitter.com/LSwVLabRNV
It’s a big week for Barca ahead of the international break. A victory in Portugal will get their Champions League campaign up and running, while three points at the Wanda Metropolitano would see Barca leapfrog the champions in the table.