Barca’s youngsters cruise into last 16
Barca may be struggling in La Liga but the team have had no such problems in the Champions League after cruising in to the last 16 with their fourth win from four games.
All four goals came in the second half as a much-changed and youthful looking Barcelona ran away with the game in Kiev and secured their progress with two games to spare.
It’s just the second time Barca have won all four group games in a row and came on a night when the Catalan giants were without a host of big names including captain Lionel Messi.
24y 206d - @FCBarcelona starting XI had an average age of 24y 206d, the club’s youngest in the Champions League since 2011 and their seventh youngest ever in the competition. Future.@ChampionsLeague #ChampionsLeague pic.twitter.com/G7EYCFRk5X— OptaJose (@OptaJose) November 24, 2020
Indeed it was Barca’s youngest team in a Champions League match for almost 10 years, so to score four and keep a clean sheet away from home in Europe’s top competition offers the club some much-needed hope for the future.
Mingueza plays himself into contention?
Not only did Koeman pick a team full of youth but it was also a very inexperienced line-up. Oscar Mingueza made his debut in defence alongside Clement Lenglet and put in an assured performance at the back.
He certainly seemed to impress Koeman who said after the match that the youngster “has shown that we can count on him.” Barca’s injury problems in defense are well-known so it’s possible Mingueza could just have played himself into Koeman’s plans for the season.
Óscar Mingueza completed 86 out of 93 (!!!!!!!!!!) passes against Dynamo Kyiv.— Barça Worldwide (@BarcaWorldwide) November 24, 2020
That's some midfielder stats, but the guy is a defender pic.twitter.com/D89ocU07LV
The youngster admitted after the match he’d “spent the whole week worrying whether I’d play or” but also added after the 90 minutes that he hopes “this is just the start of much bigger things.”
Dest makes history with first Barca goal
Sergino Dest was back in the starting XI and also on the scoresheet for the first time in a Barcelona shirt. The 20-year-old tucked away his first goal for the club pretty confidently to open the scoring at the start of the second half.
The right-back’s goal also ensured he wrote his name into the history books at the Camp Nou.
It wasn’t just his goal that will please fans though. Dest impressed both defensively and when he joined the attack and now has a real shot of making the right-back spot his own with Sergi Roberto out injured for two months.
Should Braithwaite play more?
Martin Braithwaite was another player who grabbed his first-team opportunity with both hands after being handed his first start of the season by Koeman.
The Denmark international rather inadvertently set up Dest for the opener and then doubled Barcelona’s lead five minutes later. He added his second from the penalty spot, after winning the spot-kick himself, and can be happy with a good night’s work.
2 - Martin Braithwaite has become the second Danish player to be involved in three goals in a single #ChampionsLeague game (two goals + assist) after Nicklas Bendtner for @Arsenal in 2010 (three goals) since at least 2003/04 season. Dannebrog@FCBarcelona #FCBarcelona— OptaJose (@OptaJose) November 24, 2020
Braithwaite continues to be linked with a January exit but has always made it clear he is determined to prove himself at the Camp Nou. Barca have struggled to convert their chances this season, but this performance could convince Koeman to hand the Dane more minutes.
Good night for Koeman
And talking of Koeman it was a rare good night for the Dutchman. The boss rested a whole host of players for the game but still saw his team comfortably through to the knockout stages.
Messi and Frenkie de Jong were left at home, while Antoine Griezmann and Jordi Alba started on the bench. Perhaps unsurprisingly his unfamiliar team took a whole to get going, but there’s no doubt they were good value for their win.
Koeman was understandably happy with his young side’s performance in Kiev.
“This is the image of Barcelona we want to see. They dominated the game sufficiently to be proud of their performance. We perhaps lacked a bit of effectiveness in the first half but overall I’m very happy.”
The win means Koeman will have the luxury of resting players for the final two group matches which should help the team’s La Liga campaign which is certainly in need of a boost.