Barca returned after a two week layoff due to the international break to face Mallorca. A very scrappy team that sat in the middle of the La Liga table before the match began.
It wasn’t going to be an easy match though, as injuries have ravaged Barca’s defense and have made Xavi get creative in terms of lineup selections.
How did Barca fare? Let’s find out.
The first half went as expected.
Barca was a team still reeling from all the injuries sustained during the international break. And a new bevy of faces were introduced to the starting eleven. Combine that with a long two week layoff and it’s understandable why Barca had some trouble settling into the match initially.
Barca maintained the majority of possession. But there wasn’t a lot of clinical chances being created from the rest of the team.
This stagnant play let Mallorca be confident going forward. They strung passes together and provided some brilliant build up play through the midfield and into Barca’s own third.
They even created some heart stopping chances of their own. Although none hurt Barca, so all was well on that end.
Barca did find a goal despite the struggles in build up play. It didn’t come from any Barca styled build up play. Instead, the goal came as a result of two excellent examples of individual skill from Ansu Fati and Robert Lewandowski.
Lewandowski with a fantastic opening goal
The action started with Fati, who got the start at left wing today.
He turned his face towards a Mallorca defender, calculated his options, then immediately went to work. Fati dropped his shoulder and showcased a bit of a dead leg move.
The move opened up some space for Fati, who dribbled just into the edge of Mallorca’s midfield. He then saw a streaking Lewandowski, who was making a run deeper into Mallorca’s final third.
Fati laid a smooth pass for Lewandowski, who dribbled just outside Mallorca’s penalty area. The Polish superstar then faked a shot, brought it back onto his right foot, and slipped a gorgeous shot pass the Mallorca defense into the back of the net.
It was a sublime goal, one that only very few players — let along strikers — can pull off on the pitch.
The goal gave Barca a satisfying 1-0 lead and a lot of momentum to carry for the rest of the first half.
But unfortunately for Barca, there wasn’t much in the way of action after that goal. Other than a confusing sequence of yellow card accumulation for Barca, they simply couldn’t find more positives in the attack.
Of course, Barca was still solid defensively. But the attack came to a screeching halt and forced Barca to allocate more attention towards their slim lead.
This development led to a 1-0 lead for Barca at halftime. With plenty adjustments to make, Barca could only hope they could hold onto their lead in the second half.
In a way, they were well on their way to doing that. But not before some nauseating action in the next 45 minutes.
The second half was not a good half for Barca.
Mallorca found ways to exploit Barca on the counter attack. And they almost found a few goals as a result. Luckily for Barca, there wasn’t any change on the scoreboard.
One concerning trend though, was the lack of fluidity in the attack.
For about 30 minutes or so, Barca couldn’t create dangerous chances. The play was reminiscent of the Barca attack under Ronald Koeman, but with a little more talent on the field.
It felt like Barca was sleepwalking through the second half, which seemed more apparent as the match trekked towards its conclusion.
Mallorca did threaten in the latter stages of the second half. They created some very dangerous chances. Including some that should’ve went into the back of the net. But somehow stayed out to keep Mallorca from tallying a goal.
In the end though, it was Barca who prevailed and secured a very gritty win in their first match after the international break.
This was not a fun game to watch.
Barca committed too many mistakes and those same mistakes almost costed them dearly. To be fair though, this team today was like one put together at the last minute, solely due to the injury crisis Barca is facing right now. And the fact that this was Barca’s first match after a two week layoff.
But there’s no time for breaks, as the Champions League returns soon. Barca needs to find their gear soon, or they’ll be in some trouble in the group stage.
Although there shouldn’t be any doubt that Barca will be able to do so. Since Xavi has shown before that he can unlock it and make Barca start playing at a high level quickly.
Barca’s next match
Barca’s next match is a Champions League affair with Inter Milan on Tuesday. It will be Barca’s second Champions League match so far this season.
See you all then!