Barca still can’t control games
Barcelona’s inability to control games was on show once again on Saturday as the Catalan giants let slip a 1-0 lead to draw 1-1 at Granada and miss the chance to move into third place in the table.
Of course it might have been a different story if Luuk de Jong’s early goal had been allowed to stand. It was the harshest of harsh offside calls that decided Gavi had been offside in the build-up.
Here's the offside in the build-up - was also a super sidefooted cross by Gavi for the header pic.twitter.com/nBq3f8MiIe— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) January 8, 2022
De Jong did eventually find the back of the net, after a great ball in from Dani Alves, and that looked like it might have been enough to win. With a bit more control it should have been too but Barca fell apart late on and eventually conceded in the 89th minute.
Eric Garcia’s injury didn’t help, while Gavi’s sending off was a real turning point and handed the initiative to Granada. Yet Xavi’s substitutions also didn’t help Barca’s cause and he’ll be disappointed to see his team concede from a set-piece yet again.
Eric’s injury is another blow for Barca
The injury to Eric is a particular blow with the 21-year-old having enjoyed a strong game in central defense until he was forced off with a hamstring problem that looks set to keep him out for a few weeks.
It’s also bad timing with Ronald Araujo also sidelined with a hand injury. Xavi said before the Granada match it will be tough to see the Uruguayan at the Super Cup and it seems Garcia will also miss out now too.
There’s no doubt that Eric’s had a tough start to his Barcelona career after returning from Manchester City but he has looked far more assured in recent weeks. Of course, there’s plenty of room for improvement but the youngster has visibly grown in confidence in recent weeks.
Eric’s injury means Clement Lenglet could get the nod at the Super Cup alongside Gerard Pique in defense. The Frenchman hardly impressed after replacing Garcia at Granada and managed to pick up a booking within minutes of being sent on.
Gavi needs to learn fast
There’s no doubt that Gavi’s sending off had a big influence on the match and is something the 17-year-old needs to learn from and fast. The midfielder was only just back from a ban, after picking up five yellow cards, and will now face another suspension.
Xavi pretty much summed it up after the game when asked about the red card.
“Experience and know-how comes with games. We can’t ask for any more from Gavi,” he said. “He is a player that gives us a lot and his dismissal weakened us, obviously.”
And Gavi really does give Barcelona a lot. He thought he’d picked up his third assist of the season with a superb ball into De Jong before VAR decided that actually he was offside.
His desire and hunger for the game is obvious, and much-needed in this Barca team, but a little discipline is certainly needed going forwards.
Alves shows age is just a number
One player that Gavi can surely learn from is new team-mate Dani Alves who made his La Liga debut before the young midfielder was even born. Alves also became the oldest player to feature for Barcelona in La Liga on Saturday when he took to the pitch at the grand old age of 38 years and 247 days (beating Pinto).
Remarkably, Alves made his La Liga return for Barcelona in the same fixture where he played his last league fixture for the Catalans in 2016. Even more remarkably he came up with an assist AGAIN versus Granada.
May 14, 2016: Dani Alves assists vs. Granada in his last LaLiga game before leaving Barcelona.— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) January 8, 2022
January 8, 2022: Dani Alves assists vs. Granada in his first LaLiga game since returning to Barcelona.
There were eyebrows raised when Alves arrived but he’s already looking like a good signing and proving that age really is just a number. The Brazilian produced a sumptuous ball for De Jong’s goal, created two more chances, won possession 10 times, and completed 45 of his 54 passes.
De Jong looking better under Xavi
Another player raising eyebrows at Barcelona is Luuk de Jong who was on target once again for the Catalan giants with another good header. The Dutchman is expected to depart in January after just a few months on loan but could be changing a few minds with his recent showings.
Of course, injuries and Covid have pretty much forced Xavi to play De Jong but he has delivered the goods and put in probably his best performance for Barcelona against Granada on Saturday.
Xavi was asked about De Jong’s future after the game but didn’t really give much away.
“Luuk is part of the squad, we have to see what happens to balance the salary limit to register Ferran, but Luuk has helped us a lot. I’m very happy for Luuk, but p****d off with the result.”
De Jong was brought to Barca by Ronald Koeman but has looked far better under Xavi in recent weeks. Whether it’s enough to keep him at the club, particularly with Ansu Fati back soon and Ferran Torres having arrived, remains to be seen.