Barcelona’s 4-0 victory over Athletic on Sunday completed a difficult set of February matches and achieved another resounding and impressive win.
The Catalan team scored four goals against Atletico, Valencia, Napoli and Athletic this month, winning all four matches, to enhance their chances of reaching the top four and achieving glory in the European League.
The other two matches ended in a 2-2 draw at Espanyol Stadium and the first leg was tied 1-1 with Napoli. However, do not forget that this was also a match in which Barcelona missed a huge number of opportunities.
All this means that Barcelona is a very different place than earlier this season. The goals are flowing, Xavi has the team already playing and now the results are also coming.
Bring on the rest of the season.
There were plenty of positives from Sunday’s win, not least the sight of Barcelona keeping a clean sheet. This is the team’s first shutdown in over a month and only the third of the year so far.
It is worth remembering that Barcelona faced an Athletic side with one eye in the Copa del Rey tie with Valencia. So much so that the Williams brothers did not appear until the final stages of the second half.
However, Barcelona had tied the match by the time Ousmane Dembele made it 2-0 in the 73rd minute. The French then put in a goal for substitutes Luc de Jong and Memphis Depay to add some real shine to the result.
However, there is no doubt that Barcelona have been in complete control the whole time. The Catalan team finished the match with 72%, managed to score 17 goals, and completed 719 out of 788 passes in 90 minutes.
Barcelona’s first goal, once again, came from the introduction of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who scored the fifth goal in his last three games with his new team after pouncing in the penalty area.
Gerard Pique hit a corner kick on the crossbar but Aubameyang was the quickest reaction to hit the ball home and continue his brilliant start at the Camp Nou. Signed on a free transfer, the Gabon international already looks like a great addition to the squad.
It was a completely different story in front of goal for Ferran Torres. The new boy once again had a chance to score but again he couldn’t find the net despite his best efforts.
The clearest opportunity came in the second half when he had the ball up the field, raced forward and only had Unai Simon to beat but saw his shot saved. Xavi is confident that the goals will come in Ferran’s favour, but this is not happening now for the striker.
One of the players who certainly managed to score against Athletic was substitute Ousmane Dembele, who scored the hosts’ second goal with a superb finish for his first goal of the season.
Dembele actually returned to Ferran in the 67th minute, after Xavi played Adama Traore on the Frenchman again, and received the whistle again. This time they didn’t last long as Dembele very quickly pacified his critics with a superb display.
Ousmane Dembele Sports Club
Minutes played – 23
shots – 2
⚽️ GOALS – 1
Key Passes – 3
️ Assists – 2
️ Rating – 8.77
⭐️ MotM Awards – 1
Dembele’s rating was the best that a substitute received in a La Liga match this season pic.twitter.com/qgz3pTvupV
– WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) February 28, 2022
Not content with making it 2-0, the 24-year-old then set up Luc de Jong to make it 3-0 before making another pass in injury time to Memphis Depay on his return from injury.
This was Dembele’s return to his best that will undoubtedly lead to questions as to whether Barcelona should try to keep him in the end.
Xavi has already made it clear that he thinks Dembele can be important to Barcelona, when we don’t really know what the striker actually wants.
It is also not clear if Barcelona will put in another effort, but a lot may depend on whether Dembele is able to keep fit and shoot for the rest of the season.
Dembele wasn’t the only player to put on a show at the Camp Nou as 19-year-old Pedri once again showed why his manager continues to lyric about the midfielder.
Xavi said “There is no greater possibility in the world than him.” After Pedri scored in the victory over Valencia and returned to it again on Sunday evening.
“If we are talking about pure talent, Pedri is the best in the world,” he said after the match. It didn’t stop there either, as Xavi continued to admit that the youngster reminds him of nothing but Andres Iniesta.
The Barcelona coach knows all about being a midfielder that is superior to the world, and his apparent happiness with coaching Xavi speaks volumes.
The Camp Nou loved Pedri’s performance too, especially the nutmeg in the second half, which was attended by 69,770 fans.
Pedri held the reins all night for Barcelona in a lie performance of his years. He ended up with 93% passing accuracy, played 8/8 accurate long balls, completed 3/3 dribbles, won two tackles and 8/10 duels. And the scary thing is (if you’re not a Barcelona fan at least) that he didn’t even turn twenty until November.
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