Almeria vs. Barcelona: 6 Things We Learned
It was also a chance for the hosts to get their first win on the board in the process.
The last time Barca pitched up in the town, they walked back with an eight-goal salvo under their belts. Whilst it was unlikely that such a scoreline would be repeated, the visitors won this at a canter.
Let's take a look at what we learned from the match.
Marc Bartra finally got his chance to start for Barca, although it's doubtful he would've done so were it not for the injury to Javier Mascherano.
No matter. The young Catalan seized the chance to partner Gerard Pique with aplomb. He looked assured and comfortable for the entirety of the match, and he has certainly given Gerardo Martino some food for thought.
There was much for Bartra to be pleased with, notably recovering well after being turned by Vidal, staying on his feet and averting the danger.
Whilst the manager may favour Alex Song in the role for the trip to Celtic, owing to the Scottish teams' more robust approach, performances like this can't have done Bartra any harm.
The cries for his regular inclusion to the Barca back line are likely to become ever more vocal.
In line with what is becoming his standard policy, Gerardo Martino took the opportunity to leave Neymar and Xavi Hernandez on the bench. Another masterstroke from the manager.
With the important Champions League fixture against Celtic on Tuesday in mind, it made perfect sense for there to be more squad rotation.
What is commonplace at most other teams has never really been the norm at Barcelona. Until now. Martino's policy is sensible and pro-active.
It keeps his players fresh, hungry and on their toes. Witness Lionel Messi's reaction at being taken off during the week. Come the business end of the season, we should see the fruits of Martino's work bearing some fruit.
Messi’s untimely withdrawal resulted in seeing Xavi much earlier than expected, however, there will be plenty of opportunities for Martino to give the midfielder appropriate rest.
The Influence of Suso and Rodri
Both Almeria loanees huffed and puffed without too much reward tonight. However, there was enough about their play on occasion to suggest that this is a partnership that will blossom over the course of the season.
Liverpool's Suso was industrious, and his general interplay was pleasing to the eyes. You would be hard pressed to see where he would fit into a Reds lineup, but he should certainly do enough to convince Almeria of his efforts.
You could sense that Rodri was desperate to score against his parent club. At times, that desperation got in the way of a more sensible and controlled period of play.
Both players could be the shining lights for their club during what could be a difficult season.
Moving the Ball Forward Much Quicker
It’s noticeable how much more direct Barcelona have become under Martino.
The tiki-taka we have become accustomed too is still much in evidence, but how often did we see Victor Valdes fire the ball long in this match?
A reticence by previous regimes to play any other way than one-touch “pretty” football has regularly been replaced by a far more pragmatic style, which has been to Barca’s benefit.
A club record of seven wins in a row tells it’s own story.
Almeria's Lack of Intensity
The home side started the game in reasonable fashion. Whilst not quite a match for Barca’s speed of thought and passing range, Almeria were still in the game at the halfway point.
Once Adriano put the visitors two goals to the good, Francisco Gonzalez would’ve been well within his rights to expect his charges to up their game and “put some sweat on the shirt.”
The opposite was true.
Almeria sat back and allowed Barca to fashion their triangles, popping one- and two-touch passes between each other with ease.
In what seemed no more than a training ground practice, Barca were at walking pace by the 80th minute—a sad indictment of Almeria’s attacking intent.
Consider this. A season ticket for Almeria is in the region of €150 (per Almeria's official website), which is the same price as one ticket for this match!
For a country that's almost on its knees because of financial crisis, the greed shown by the club is quite remarkable.
With the league leaders in town, you might have thought that a full, vocal stadium would’ve been just what the team required to enhance the atmosphere.
The banks of empty seats inside the stadium showed what the home support thought of the decision.