There has never been a better time for Barca to showcase the talent that La Masia has in its ranks than against Tottenham Hotspur on Tuesday.
Suggestions that by playing the kids against the north Londoners is somehow handing Spurs the keys to the next round and making a mockery of the competition are mischievous at best.
Anyone who pulls on that Blaugrana shirt will be giving their best, and if Barca B players think there’s even a small chance of impressing Ernesto Valverde enough for him to want to see more in due course, they’ll give another 10 per cent effort.
Riqui Puig few characteristics for CM position on his official debut. pic.twitter.com/niTRHzpmO4— MFBN Development Program (@mfbnproject) December 6, 2018
Tottenham may well end up winning the game but they’ll be made to work hard for it, because it goes against the grain to suppose that any Barcelona player will just roll over for an opponent.
With injuries starting to bite the Blaugranes, and two must-win games ahead before the winter break against Levante and Celta, there is no logical reason why any of the first-team regulars should be playing on Tuesday night.
It is a perfect opportunity to test the likes of Carles Alena, Riqui Puig et al against first class Premier League opposition who need to win themselves to assure a passage to the next stage of the competition.
Logically, all of the fringe players should get a run out too.
If Messi insists on playing, tell him no, because the desire to eat into Cristiano Ronaldo’s record for UCL goals can wait for at least another match.
Lionel Messi has scored more Champions League goals for Barcelona (106) than the next 5 players combined (101) pic.twitter.com/wrQoJN2YA8— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) November 28, 2018
Though Mauricio Pochettino’s side like to play football in the right way and have a free-flowing style that’s great to watch, they do have players that can ‘put their foot in’ when the need arises.
With so much at stake for them, a few physical challenges will be expected. Valverde simply cannot afford for any more of his starters, least of all his headliners, to have any more down time.
Munir scored against the same opposition in the International Champions Cup back in pre-season, a match which also included Juan Miranda, Denis Suarez and Jasper Cillessen as well as a smattering of current first team players and those who’ve since left the club.
Puig came on in that match along with Ballou Tabla, Sergi Palencia, Alex Collado, Marc Cucurella and others.
If, as we’ve been led to believe, Valverde is a cautious coach who doesn’t really like to take risks, then he has to treat this match for what it is – a ‘dead rubber.’
There’s less riding on this than there was in that ICC friendly.