With the city of Barcelona abuzz regarding the arrival of Raphinha, it was easy to forget that the club itself had a match today. Barca opened their preseason tonight against Olot. A fifth division side that resides in the the lovely location of Girona. The match didn’t have much intrigue of course, since the preseason doesn’t provide much excitement unless the giants of world football clash.
But the session did provide our first look at some of Barca’s new summer transfer arrivals. Franck Kessie and Pablo Torre were the two notable names in the starting eleven, with plenty more of the usual, recognizable faces riding the pine until their chance to play came.
We also were able to get a glimpse at Xavi tactically, even if the product we saw today pales in comparison to full extent of surprises we might see from Xavi once the La Liga campaign begins.
But instead of skimming over what happened, let’s dive a little deeper into the match today.
The first half represented a chance for both squads to feel each other out. This moment in time was especially necessary for Barca. As they rolled out a makeshift starting eleven to start out their summer friendlies.
As stated earlier, Kessie and Torre were two of the big names to start tonight’s match. Those two were joined by some names you’ve probably heard before as well. Sergiño Dest, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Marc-Andre Ter Stegen, Ez Abde, Nico Gonazlez, and Ilias Akomach also joined the starting eleven.
One under the radar name found his way into the starting eleven. Mika Marmol, a young, talented centerback that’s performed well for Barca B — now Barca Athletic — was slotted into the back line to start in front of Ter Stegen.
It was an unusual lineup, but you get a lot of those in the preseason, especially during the first match of the summer friendly season.
Once the lineup details were revealed, it was time for the actual game.
In the 8th minute, we got our first look at how special Pablo Torre could be. He received a pass just across Olot’s midfield circle. Then then took a few dribbles, nutmegged a Olot’s midfielder, then laid a beautiful pass onto Aubameyang’s plate. Aubameyang couldn’t finish the sequence, but it was a great looking burst of energy for Torre.
Inside of 19 minutes, there was another chance. Kessie received a good pass down the flank. Before he lobbed a cross into the box for Aubameyang. The former Arsenal striker got a head on it, but the shot rang off the post. It was the second miss in two chances for Aubameyang, which only highlighted his inconsistent finishing issues that bore its ugly head towards the end of last season.
In the 28th minute though, Aubameyang finally found his goal. It came after a beautiful pick out by Ter Stegen, who sent a booming kick from his own penalty area, right into Aubameyang’s shooting pocket.
Aubameyang then got a bit of a chip off, and found the back of the net.
However, Barca couldn’t hold on to their lead as the first half began to wind down, as Olot worked through a beautiful session of play, before finding a good scoring chance. But that chance was denied, as Mika Marmol took down an Olot attacker in the penalty area of Barca.
The referee immediately signaled for a penalty. Eloi Amagat stepped up to take it, and slotted it home past a diving Ter Stegen. Who dove the right way but couldn’t keep it out of the net.
It was a blemish on an otherwise good first half for Marmol. Who’ll be kicking himself for giving up the penalty once he reviews the sequence. Once Olot scored to knot the match vs Barca at one, the first half came to an end.
It was a decent first half that was filled with some ups and downs for Barca. With the second half on deck though, some were hoping they’d see a more technically improved Blaugrana side.
They got their wish, but not in the way they would’ve liked.
The second half saw Barca look a little more precise in the attacking aspect. Maybe not as technical as the first half’s performance. But more intricate passing to create a little more “danger” per say. And a good reason for that switch in play was the mass amount of changes Xavi made personnel wise. Ansu Fati, Pedri, Alejandro Balde, Iñaki Peña, and Alex Collado were the notable names that were brought on in the second half.
There was no apparent rust either. As soon as they stepped on the pitch, their skill sets were on full display.
There was a little more fluidity in the attack, especially near the penalty area. Mostly by way of the connection between Fati — who came on as a central forward instead of a winger — and the supporting midfielders who joined the attack. Fati was able to put himself into some dangerous spots due to that fluidity and movement. But none of his shots threatened the goalkeeper today, mostly because a lot, if not all of his shots were blocked.
Pedri played well too. He had two big time scoring chances. One in the 80th minute where he was on a breakaway, and tried to ball roll his way to an open net. But it didn’t work in his favor, as the ball harmlessly stuck to the stomach of the Olot goalkeeper, preventing Barca the lead. Another in the 63rd minute, a chance that wasn’t as clear as the other one, but still one that qualified as dangerous.
Pedri received a good ball from Collado — who has a very good second half — and he was in on goal. But Pedri’s shooting angle was way too tight, and he couldn’t get a shot off. Pedri will tell you himself that he should’ve finished off both of those chances, especially the one that came near the end of the match.
But he was getting in good spots to get off shots, so if there’s a positive to take away from his performance, it’s that.
Youngsters get an opportunity to shie
Aside from that, there were a few other positive moments in the second half. Alex Valle almost scored a beautiful sliding goal after a great pass by Marc Casado. But Valle’s shot rang off the post and away from play.
Alejandro Balde had a moment of brilliance himself. Early in the second half, he went on a great run where he dribbled past a few defenders, before entering a dangerous shooting area. His shot was lacking though, so the run amounted to nothing.
After all the action though, the match ended in a 1-1 draw.
There were plenty of good moments for Barca. But there were some pieces of negativity that Xavi and his staff have to improve on before the club heads to America for their preseason tour.
This final word will be used to spotlight Alex Collado, who had a very decent showing tonight. His situation up until has been shaky, all due to his playing situation spinning out of control last season.
A troublesome contractural issue prevented Collado from suiting up for Barca last season. He was eventually given a chance to play for Granada. But I’m sure Xavi would’ve loved to play for Barca, especially since the winger situation was snakebitten by injuries during the early portion of Xavi’s first year in charge.
With the forward situation looking full this year, it looks difficult for Collado to get valuable playing time at Barca. But if he continues to play well, he could collect a good loan option for himself.
Barca’s next match
Barca’s next match will be next Tuesday against Inter Miami CF. A match that’ll serve as the kick off of the club’s US tour.
See you all then!