With this match against Porto, Barca had begun their most crucial set of fixtures the season had to offer so far.
Up first was a crucial home fixture against Porto, the Portuguese side who is valiantly fighting with Barca for the top spot in Group H of the Champions League. After, were two crucial home matches in domestic competition, against current La Liga co-leader Girona and a surging Atletico Madrid, who are right with Barca on the league table.
All are very important matches that had/have the potential to determine the course of Barca’s season.
But for now Barca can only focus on one match at a time. Porto is up first and Barca needed a win to comfortably put themselves into the round of 16. So how did they fare?
The opening 45 minutes were….interesting to say the least.
Barca controlled possession early, but that and their control gradually lessened as the first half went along. The reasons for that? Porto’s intensity was one of the reasons, as their aggressiveness on and off the ball made life difficult for Barca early. Especially when they weren’t in possession, with their press hounding Barca’s back line and their defensive structure in the midfield clogging the action.
However, another one of the reasons for Barca’s gradual decline was their inability to control anything in the midfield. Barca started Frenkie De Jong, Pedri, and Ilkay Gundogan together, but their fits as a midfield “trio” felt more thrown together than anything resembling balance and coordination.
Maybe it was because Pedri wasn’t the deeper of the 3, or maybe because he wasn’t even the connecting body between one of De Jong and Gundogan. Either way, it all felt disjointed, leading to some weak moments of possession from Barca.
As Barca struggled with their control, Porto found ways to pounce.
They leaned on Barca using some early and consistent pressure attacking wise, until they were finally able to break the deadlock courtesy of a goal from Pepe, but no the Pepe Barca fans hated during his days at Real Madrid.
But Barca found a way back into the match, courtesy of a wonderful solo goal from Joao Cancelo.
Barca bounces back quickly
Sheer individual brilliance from Cancelo, dribbling and cutting inside, before bending a shot around the body of Pepe — yes, the former Real Madrid man — and into the back of the net.
Barca really needed that goal, since Porto’s earlier goal and mounting control on the game felt ominous and worrying. Nonetheless, Barca was level and they were right back in it, all they needed was another goal to feel comfortable about topping their own group.
However, any more potential goals would have to wait until the second half, as the halftime whistle finally arrived. For Barca it was a well timed one, as they needed to find their way in order to make the next 45 minutes worthwhile.
Would they be able to do so?
Let’s find out.
The second half was a whirlwind of difference for Barca.
There was a lot more fluidity in their attack, but most importantly there was better build up into those attacking episodes.
But again, a lot of their danger came to be due to the individual effort of none other than Joao Cancelo. This was especially true on Barca’s second goal, as it was Cancelo who created it all.
Cancelo creates, Felix delivers
This time, it was more so of a classic build up. Not in the Barca way, but the way of other clubs that don’t have technicality to build up slowly. In other words, it was just a long ball hammered forward from the back line off the foot of De Jong.
De Jong’s pass found the head of Cancelo, who eventually headed it towards the feet of Joao Felix. From there, the magic began. Felix dribbled with pace towards the Porto defense, before sliding the ball off to a streaking Cancelo.
Cancelo then found Felix again, but this time inside of Porto’s penalty area. Felix then fired off a first time shot, brilliantly sliding it past Diogo Costa and into the back of the net.
Again, sheer individual brilliance from Cancelo to help create that chance that gave Barca the lead.
After this goal, there were a few moments of anxiety from Barca’s POV, but for the most part Barca controlled the game and found a way to leave with a 2-1 win.
Talk about a tale of two halves.
In the first half, Barca looked out of sorts, sluggish, and had no sort of control or consistency. If it wasn’t for Cancelo, they’d probably be in a worse situation than they were in.
In the second half though, they looked more crisp and more connected, especially in the midfield. That was the most positive sign, since without a midfield, there’s virtually no way for Barca to stick to their DNA while also trying to win. Luckily they found some success there and at a very crucial time as well.
Finally, how about Cancelo eh? He’s been more so of a staple at right back due to the lack of options there. But he was finally unleashed as an advanced left back today and boy did it pay off.
It feels like that’s where Cancelo needs to be, since he’s able to cut back with more potential in terms of goal scoring threats, either as a creator or a finisher. We’ll see how it all evolves over the next couple of weeks, but for now, enjoy the performance Cancelo put out.
Because it was that special.
Barca’s next match
Barca’s next match will be on Sunday at home against Atletico Madrid.
See you all then!
I’ve been a big time Barca fan since I was 14 years old. I love the club, the history, and the tradition that the club has built over its prestigious history. Forca Barca!