Barcelona confused by Xavi’s tweaks
Barcelona ran out 3-1 winners against Celta Vigo on Tuesday but the hosts really struggled at times at the Camp Nou and the win was certainly not as comfortable as the scoreline suggests.
For once the tables were turned as Barcelona were clinical in front of goal while their opponents were not. The hosts scored three of their four efforts on target, while Celta netted once from five shots on goal.
The sending off of former Barca man Jeison Murillo on 58 minutes also helped out the Catalan giants who looked utterly confused by Xavi’s tactics and set-up in the first half.
Barcelona lined up in a curious formation at kick-off that simply didn’t work and Xavi was forced to adjust at half-time. The boss admitted as much after the game.
“The team was not comfortable with the formation,” he said. “We have not trained it much and it has not gone well.”
It really didn’t go well and Barcelona ending up winning largely thanks to the brilliance of Ousmane Dembele, the superb finishing of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and possibly also because it was a Tuesday.
33 - @FCBarcelona are unbeaten in their 33 #LaLiga games played on a Tuesday (W23 D10), the best unbeaten record for a team on a specific day in the competition’s history. Labour#BarcelonaCelta #FCB ❤ pic.twitter.com/GGDATXNsdN— OptaJose (@OptaJose) May 10, 2022
Why didn’t Riqui Puig start?
The big surprise in Xavi’s teamsheet for the game was the absence of Riqui Puig. The midfielder had been expected to start, with Sergio Busquets, Nico, and Pedri all out, but still found himself on the bench.
Xavi could hardly have sent a clearer message to the youngster about his future at the club, particularly after claiming Puig would be “important” in Barca last three games when asked about the possibility of the midfielder leaving in his pre-match presser.
Of course Puig then did get a chance at half-time with Xavi forced to change things. Barca were better in the second 45 minutes and Puig was a little unlucky not to get himself a goal when he saw an effort ruled out for offside.
There is a chance Puig could now get a start next time out. Sergio Busquets will be back from suspension but Frenkie de Jong is banned for the trip to Getafe. Yet given what happened on Tuesday it also wouldn’t be a surprise to see Puig benched again.
Dembele tops La Liga’s assists charts
Ousmane Dembele headed into the game without managing to tee up a goal in six games but came up with two assists to move to the top of La Liga’s charts. The first was a real beauty with Dembele pulling off a lovely nutmeg and then showing off his incredible speed to set up Memphis Depay.
Another assist followed for his good mate Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to take Dembele to 13 assists for the season in just 20 La Liga games (only 15 of which have been as a starter).
After two assists in Barcelona's win against Celta Vigo, Ousmane Dembélé leads La Liga in assists with 13 this season— B/R Football (@brfootball) May 10, 2022
He's missed 16 games pic.twitter.com/AHb9JuNwJq
The Frenchman tormented Javi Galan, who has been linked with Barca recently, all night in a very impressive display that will only increase the Catalans’ desire to keen the forward at the club.
Dembele’s performance even led Aubameyang to implore his team-mate to stay at the Camp Nou once again after the match.
“I love him a lot and that’s why things go so well,” he said. “I’m happy for him, I don’t know if he’ll stay or not but I hope with all my heart that he will.”
Yet Dembele’s current Barcelona contract expires on June 30 and we are still no closer to knowing what he will do next.
Win overshadowed by Araujo injury
Barcelona’s win was overshadowed by a horrible head injury sustained by Ronald Araujo. The defender clashed heads with Gavi, who somehow appeared to emerge unscathed from the collision, but Araujo certainly did not.
The Uruguayan initially ran away from the challenge but then worryingly fell to his knees and hit the turf. Thankfully, Eric Garcia and Iago Aspas were both alive to the situation and responded very quickly.
Iago Aspas was one of the first players on the pitch to attend to Ronald Araujo's head injury.— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) May 10, 2022
Aspas also stayed close until the very end until Araujo's ambulance left the pitch.
Araujo was subsequently stretchered into an ambulance after nearly eight minutes of treatment and taken straight to hospital. Barcelona have confirmed he has suffered a concussion but have been told by doctors he will be OK.
There’s no doubt it was a scary moment which clearly affected the players afterwards for a little while. Barcelona were happy to celebrate the win after the game but the best news of the night was undoubtedly that Araujo was fine and not in any danger.
Suspensions give Xavi selection headache
Xavi may also be waking up with a headache after the game as the Uruguayan’s injury adds to his problems ahead of Sunday’s final away fixture of the season at Getafe.
Xavi is already without Gerard Pique, Sergino Dest, Sergi Roberto, Pedri, and Nico Gonzalez due to injury, while Frenkie de Jong, Eric Garcia, and Jordi Alba picked up bookings and are suspended for the match.
Quite why La Liga are still banning players for picking up five yellow cards at this stage of the season (totally bonkers in my opinion) remains to be seen but that’s a talking point for another day.
All of which means Xavi is facing a selection headache, although he will be able to call upon Sergio Busquets again as the captain will return from suspension.
Sunday’s game means we could see some fringe players get a rare run out, particularly with second place almost assured.
Oscar Mingueza, Clement Lenglet, Riqui, Alejandro Balde, and Samuel Umtiti might get a chance, and youngsters Jandro Orellano and Alvaro Sanz will also be hoping for minutes after training with the first team this week.