Barcelona vs. Alaves: 5 Things We Learned
On paper, it might have appeared a pretty insignificant win for a Barcelona reserve team against the second division minnows from Vitoria-Gasteiz.
Despite being down on the night briefly, the Barca understudies quickly rallied to produce a comfortable 3-1 victory and a 6-1 aggregate win to advance to the last-16 of the Copa del Rey.
Two goals from David Villa and one from Christian Tello continued the dream start to Tito Vilanova's rookie season as head coach.
And while the headlines weren't so huge on this occasion, there were plenty interesting side stories to the game.
Here are five things we learned...
5. Victor Valdes Doesn't Have Too Much to Worry About.
Pinto got the rare start in goal and didn't cover himself in glory despite having little to do in the game.
His positioning could have been better when Viguera gave the hosts a shock 1-0 lead as Valdes watched on from the stands.
The Barcelona No. 1 had come in for plenty of criticism earlier this season after finishing the previous campaign on a sour note.
Their were rumours that he may be replaced by a new signing, or Pinto tried at the top level, but judging by some of his distribution and positioning on this occasion, Valdes is in no danger of his place being under threat.
One could say he had one of his best games for Barca and he didn't even play!
4. Alex Song Could Be a Bust
It's still early into Alex Song's fledgling Barcelona career, but the Cameroon international has done little to show why they paid £15 million for his services.
The deal happened relatively quickly compared with the long-running Fabregas saga, and with La Blaugrana in the midst of a defensive crisis when he joined, he was put straight into battle at the back.
Song is more than capable defensively but struggled to impose himself from game one. Indeed, he did his best work for Arsenal as a defensive midfielder and that was why all eyes were on him in the 3-1 win.
A return to his favourite position should have brought better returns than he displayed but unfortunately for the 25-year-old, it was yet another missed chance to prove to the fans and the coach why he carried such a huge price tag.
On the positive side, there seems time for Song to find his feet—especially as Barca continue to dominate all competitions.
3. Carles Puyol Is a Beast
Superlatives cannot describe just how good this marquee player is. Carles Puyol will no doubt go down in Barca history as one of the greatest players to ever pull on a Barca shirt.
But at 34, and a couple of injury-plagued seasons, including a serious knee injury, there were rumours he might call time on an illustrious career—not a thought of it.
Puyol came back stronger than ever but was immediately halted in his tracks by a horrendous dislocated elbow suffered in Benfica.
The diagnosis was two months on the sidelines minimum. Not only did he come back in half that time, he started his second game inside a week when many others were rested.
Few could argue if the club captain sat this one out to prepare for Bilbao but that's just not the makeup of the man. He wants to play every game possible and was again excellent.
2. Villa Is Still Quality
You could do a lot worse than having a striker like David Villa in your squad!
After missing the best part of eight months with a broken leg, the 30-year-old has been slowly integrated back into the squad.
His two goals on the night marked the 300th and 301st of is career—a quite stunning achievement.
But Villa has a different role in the team now and the game with Alaves was the first time this season he had lasted the full 90 minutes.
The fear for Villa would be that he is used as a bench player for much of the season which may lead to a January transfer should the Neymar saga reach a conclusion.
If I were Tito, I'd do everything in my power to keep him at the club.
1. Gerard Deulofeu: Believe the Hype!
Mark my words, this kid has got the X Factor in a big way! The only surprise was that he did not start the game.
But the 18-year-old more than made an impression for the 21 minutes he was on the pitch.
Slick passing, mazy runs and almost a stunning cheeky goal showed the Camp Nou exactly why he's the most talked about prospect in Barcelona B's side.
Not short on confidence, the youngster leads the Segunda Division scoring charts with eight goals to date.
Please keep him involved, Tito!