Analysing How Barcelona Used Neymar and Messi vs. Santos

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Analysing How Barcelona Used Neymar and Messi vs. Santos
David Ramos/Getty Images

Barcelona put on a show in the Joan Gamper Trophy on Friday night, defeating Brazilian side Santos 8-0 in the Camp Nou on the night that former Peixe idol Neymar made his first home outing for his new side.

The fixture, which was one of two games agreed to under the terms of Neymar's sale, saw the Brazilian play just the second half on the night, but still gave the young star time to impress his new fans.

Much of the interest pre-match had been about just how new manager Tata Martino would combine the Brazilian with his side's existing star Lionel Messi and, for just a few second-half minutes, we were able to see the two in action together.

However, despite their lack of shared pitch time, we are beginning to understand Martino's plans for his key men and where they fit in his system.

All the indications thus far are that the Argentine does not plan on altering too much from his predecessors, with Barcelona lining up in their familiar 4-3-3 formation once more on the night.

Messi was, as he has been for some time, employed in his usual false nine role at the spearhead of the attack, and was heavily involved in the Catalan side's build up play throughout the first half.

With Spanish winger Pedro attacking from the right and Chile's Alexis Sanchez cutting in from the left, Messi was able to drop deep to collect the ball and then look to bring his widemen into play.

It was also noticeable how, for the opening hour of the encounter at least, the Blaugrana pressed high up the pitch with an intensity that was often lacking last campaign. It's the early days in the season and Santos were poor opposition, but it will be an interesting factor to keep an eye on.

When Neymar was introduced in place of Pedro for the second half, he would take up a position on the left of Barcelona's three-pronged attack, with Alexis switching to the opposite flank.

The former Santos man was not at his very best on the night, but showed moments of brilliance that demonstrate just what he can potentially offer to his new side.

There were stepovers and backheels to ignite the crowd during what was already a non-contest, but it was the precision that the Brazilian offered on a couple of occasions that really stood out. His ball for the second Cesc Fabregas goal of the evening, having squared up his marker before stopping dead in his tracks, exemplified that accuracy.

David Ramos/Getty Images

What Neymar can offer Barcelona is directness, in a similar manner to Pedro in previous years. He can link up with the Catalans' short, sharp passing interchanges, but will also look for a killer ball or shot with greater regularity.

On Friday, there were signs he was trying too hard to make things happen when it was virtually impossible. As he settles, though, he will become better at picking his moments.

We may not have seen too much of Messi and Neymar as a unit against Santos, but we have a good idea how they will be used at least. The real test of their link up, though, is still to come.

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