Barcelona hosted Real Sociedad today in a match that can see them regain the top spot in La Liga. Setien gave Braithwaite his first start in a blaugrana jersey, pairing him with Greizmann and Messi in the front line. Frenkie De Jong, Ivan Rakitic and Sergio Busquets filled in the midfield. The defence with Jordi Alba, Clement Lenglet, Gerard Pique and Nelson Semedo rounding out the back.
The first half was fairly dull. Not much to say about either side. Barcelona created the most dangerous chances, with Ter Stegen not having to make a save and being quiet in goal. Messi has chances to put Barcelona in front, but was blocked on one occasion and misfired on the other. Braithwaite had two runs in which he could have scored his first goal for the club, but Remiro was there to save both shots on target.
Second half – Winning on a bad day
In the second half, Messi was once again in the middle of the action. But he could not force the ball into the back of the net. It was not until the 81st minute that Barcelona were bailed out by VAR and were rewarded a penalty for a handball. Messi converted the penalty to take a late 1-0 lead. Barcelona was able to hold off until the end and finish with three points and take a two point lead atop the La Liga standings.
Even though it was a good win for Barcelona, the quality of play was not what we are used to seeing from Barcelona. There is very little movement from those without the ball, allowing the opponents to press and create difficulties for Barcelona. They were stagnant all of the first half. And it changed in the second half which is when they were more dangerous. Hopefully this win helps get them back on track, with the Champions League return leg right around the corner.