Spartak Moscow Loses to Barcelona: What Lessons Were Learned for Both Sides?
FC Barcelona traveled to Russia to face Spartak Moscow in the fifth game of the Champions League group stage. The game would turn out to be a full domination by Barcelona.
Dani Alves opened the scoring with a scorching volley before Lionel Messi added a two goals to seal a 3-0 win. The overall play from both teams was something to be proud of as Spartak refused to quit.
With this win, Barcelona have officially qualified for the next stage of the Champions League. However, the remaining games will determine if they finish as group leaders.
Many lessons were learned in Russia—let's take a look a few of those lessons.
Unai Emery Had Spartak Prepared
The former Valencia boss has become all too familiar with coaching against Barcelona. Emery must have prepared his side with all the knowledge he has built, as Spartak looked strong in this game.
Not only was the Spartak defense organized, it was also efficient. Players made smart defensive moves and played with confidence.
That same confidence was seen further up the pitch, as the club from Moscow pressured high up and were determined to not just sit in the box and defend.
The attacking buildup was the strongest area for Spartak.
Almost every run made by Spartak saw a chance on goal. The Russians clearly did not waste possession and were quite calm when Barcelona began to pressure. Emery should be proud of his squad for playing without fear.
Poor Finishing Cost Spartak Moscow
For all of the tremendous buildup and counter attacking, Spartak were embarrassing in front of goal.
The Russian outfit had, at the very least, seven clear attempts on goal. Not a single shot found the goal, and most were rifled over the crossbar.
The finishing was so poor that Barcelona keeper, Victor Valdes, was not required to save a single shot the entire game.
Emery will understandably be upset at this fact because Spartak could have easily made this a close game. But let's not heap too much correction on the Russians. Everything else they did was perfectly executed.
Sadly, Spartak have been eliminated from the Champions League. But the Russians showed heart and desire and taught that the Champions League is about a will to win against any opposition.
Gerard Piqué Is Vital to Barcelona
No matter how much criticism Piqué receives for his form last year, the defender is an absolute necessity in the lineup. Piqué put in a solid performance in defense while making numerous strong tackles to break up play.
The highlights of the night defensively for Barcelona were clearly the one-on-one tackles made by the Spanish international. With Piqué having missed nearly two months of action with a foot injury, everyone was reminded of how important he is (via ESPN).
Barcelona are simply the world's best team when the defense is performing.
Though the defense has struggled all season long, Piqué and company showed how good Barcelona can truly be. Look for the defense to start settling in to form after the convincing clean sheet in Russia.
Xavi, Iniesta, Cesc and Busquets Can Play at the Same Time
Recent reports have brought to life that Andres Iniesta feels uncomfortable on the bench for Barcelona (via yahoo sports). The Catalan midfielder has always been a permanent starter for the club, yet coach Tito Vilanova has had to rotate his midfield this season.
Cesc Fàbregas has arguably found his form for Barcelona. Along with Xavi and defensive midfielder Sergio Busquets, that leaves four players for three positions.
Iniesta has been known to play a winger-type role for the Spain National Team, and Vilanova opted to try the same approach for the game against Spartak. This allowed all four players to be on the pitch at the same time.
Though some might disagree, the lineup worked perfectly.
All four players worked together well and created many chances. This can now be seen as a possible lineup for Barcelona in the future.
The interchanging of positions used by Barcelona allowed for the players to move where needed. This gave the players more creative chances while giving Spartak defenders a headache trying to mark four moving players.
The only problem that can be seen with this is the lack of a true winger. Wingers such as David Villa create chances while also being a goal scoring threat. Iniesta did create chances but never troubled the Spartak defensive with an attempt on goal.
Barcelona Are Still the Best Team in the World
Barcelona made a huge statement in this game by showing the world they are still the best there is.
Every team suffers from lost form, injuries, mistakes and mere bad luck. Barcelona have faced it all this season, yet they have continued to find ways to win and make up for mistakes.
Against Spartak, the Catalan giants showed what they are capable of when on their game with a healthy squad. They are able to dominate possession, create chances and score goals.
Barcelona never once looked in danger of messing up in this game. With a squad full of stars led by the world's greatest, Lionel Messi, Barcelona are the best team in the world.
However, Barcelona will have to continue to prove this fact. One win doesn't make a season. The rest of the Champions League road will be hard, but Barcelona do have what it takes to win the Champions League this season.
Now to you, the readers. Have Barcelona shown their dominance and proved they are the world's best team?