Throughout the first 25 or so minutes of the first half, Barca once again struggled to create anything useful in the attack vs Celta. But it wasn’t due to the usual human error or a lack of substance in the final third.
But due to the new formation Xavi Hernandez rolled out for tonight’s match.
Breaking down the new formation
Usually, Barca runs a 4-3-3 with 2 forward center midfielders, and a strict central defensive midfielder that joins the attack at times. That’s been Xavi’s bread and butter ever since he took over.
But tonight, Xavi experimented with a new formation, mostly due to the lack of available midfielders (Sergio Busquets suspended, Nico Gonzalez and Pedri hurt).
The formation Xavi opted for was a bit of a 4-2-4 or a 4-2-2-2. With Frankie De Jong and Gavi as the lone midfielders and Memphis Depay, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Ferran Torres, and Ousmane Dembele as the 4 forwards.
Other looks at the formation led some to believe it was a 3-4-3. With Ronald Araujo, Dani Alves, and Eric Garcia as 2 central defenders. De Jong and Gavi as midfielders along with Jordi Alba and Davi Alves inverting as extra midfieldesr to aid the midfield. Torres and Dembele as supporting attacking midfielders/wingers. And Depay and Aubameyang as the two main talisman in the attack.
This formation(s) can lead to positive things in the attack. Which is why some were a little intrigued about the overall makeup of it. But when you rarely use it, you’re bound to run into the issues Barca faced through the first half.
Delayed passing decisions, different runs coming from different players at different times, I think you get the idea.
As the first half progressed towards its end though, Barca began to find their footing. But not before they had to face an onslaught of scoring chances from Celta Vigo. Perhaps none more notable than Celta Vigo’s chance in the 14th minute.
Early scare for Barca
After some miscommunication between Araujo and Marc-Andre Ter Stegen, the ball fell to an open Celta Vigo player in a dangerous area. Fortunately for Barca, Araujo recovered and prevented a shot from ever being taken.
After this scare though, it was all Barca until the final whistle.
Memphis Depay scores again
The first tally of the match came from Memphis Depay. But not before his shooting lane was served on a silver platter by Dembele.
Dembele received the ball just past the midfield line. He then made a move, dropped a Celta Vigo defender, and dashed past another to open himself up. Dembele continued to run down the flank and into Celta Vigo’s penalty area, before laying off a simple pass to Depay inside the box.
All that was left was for Depay to finish off the chance, and that he did.
It was another close up example of what Dembele can do when he’s healthy and engaged. His pace and playmaking is a gift from the heavens, and Barca is fortunate they’re finally seeing it all on display after a miserable 3+ years of injuries from Dembele.
After Depay’s goal, it looked like Barca was starting to settle into the game. However, before Barca’s next chance, they had to depend on Ter Stegen to protect the lead they just secured.
After a good pass to Thiago Galhardo, the Celta Vigo forward unloaded a good looking shot toward Barca’s next. It looked to be wandering into the bottom right corner of the net, but Ter Stegen stepped in and palmed it away with his right hand.
That wake up call of a shot proved that Barca’s opening goal didn’t faze Celta Vigo. They were still in this game and weren’t going to go away until Barca made them go away.
6 or so minutes later, Barca almost gave Celta Vigo that final push to make them lay off.
Aubameyang returns to the scoresheet
After a bad clearance attempt in the Celta Vigo penalty area, the ball rolled to the feet of Aubameyang. The main man in the Barca attack then tried to connect with a bit of an overhead kick. But the shot wasn’t hit cleanly enough.
But that didn’t stop the ball from going in though. As Celts Vigo keeper Matías Dituro watched the ball slowly roll into the back of the net.
It was a 2-0 lead for Barca. And with the way they were playing, it didn’t seem like much would stop them from scoring more.
However, halftime hit before Barca could score more.
All Barca had to do was defend well and threaten in the attack to secure another win. If they did that — while also avoiding injuries — they’d be sitting pretty result wise.
But with the way this season has gone, there’s no way all 3 of those things would’ve been on Barca’s side at the same time.
The second half turned out to be one of excitement and worry for Barca.
Aubameyang scores again
The excitement came first, as Barca added another goal to their tally just minutes into the half. After Xavi switched back to the normal 4-3-3, Dembele provided another blazing run down the left flank, and found himself in prime position to make a play.
He picked out Aubameyang, who was standing without a marker in the middle of Celta Vigo’s penalty area. Aubameyang then calmly slotted home the shot first time, and gave Barca a 3-0 lead.
At that point, it looked like Barca was toying with Celta Vigo. They were making good runs, chances were being covered, it all felt like a happy occasion. But Celta Vigo came back, and triggered a bit of PTSD from Barca fans that witnessed Barca choke away a previous 3-0 lead to Celta Vigo in their previous meeting.
Celta Vigo gets a goal back
Celta Vigo scored their first goal of the game after a securing possession deep in Barca’s defensive third. The ball fell to Galhardo, who found Iago Aspas. Aspas then slid his soft shot home, as Ter Stegen watched the shot slide past his near post.
Some worry came back into the crowd, but nothing came about in the end. As for the remainder of the half, there were some notable events that occurred.
A weird remaining second half
Jeison Murillo was sent off in the 59th minute after taking town Depay in transition. The foul occurred just outside the box, so Depay was awarded a free kick, which went just wide.
In the 69th minute, Celta Vigo was in on goal, but they squandered their chance by playing too many passes and allowing Barca’s defense to recover.
In the 77th minute, Riqui Puig — who came on after halftime to help complete Barca’s return to a 4-3-3 — scored a goal, but it was eventually ruled out due to offsides.
However, the most notable event — and probably the scariest one — came in the 60th minute when Araujo was forced off due to injury. This wasn’t an ordinary injury either, it was a scary one that appeared to be heartbreaking as the situation unfolded.
Araujo’s scary injury
After Araujo clashed heads with Gavi while going up to head the ball, Araujo suddenly collapsed on the field. The moment seemed strange, but it quickly turned into one with panic as Barca and Celta Vigo players urgently pleaded for the medical staff to come tend to the Uruguayan defender.
The Camp Nou fell silent, as they didn’t know what was happening to the talented, young defender. He had lost consciousness, and any moves made after that were certainly in the hands of God and fate. He was loaded into an ambulance and taken to a Barcelona hospital.
Barca ended up securing a 3-1 win, but all thoughts were on Araujo’s condition immediately after the match.
Thankfully, it appears Araujo will be okay. He has a concussion and it looks like he’ll make a full recovery. But it was certainly a scary situation that unfolded before our eyes, no doubt about that.
This wasn’t the cleanest of games for Barca. But in the end, they got the win they were looking for. It doesn’t help that the Araujo scare and the unnecessary yellow cards will stand as blemishes.
But this was still a good night for a team looking to secure second place.
The yellow card situation is one to monitor though. Alba, De Jong, and Garcia will all be suspended for the match against Getafe this weekend.
That leaves the club with a very scarce defensive situation. Could we see young prospect Alejandro Blade get some minutes due to the lack of options at left back? Could Samuel Umtiti get some playing time due to the center back injury situation?
Who knows, it’s a fluid situation and we won’t know how it’ll go down until this weekend. Until then though, enjoy the win and look forward to this weekend.
Barca’s next match
Barca’s next match is on Sunday against Getafe.
See you all then!