Napoli vs. Barcelona: What Luis Enrique Learned in Geneva
After a reasonable performance against Nice, Luis Enrique would surely have been hoping for a much better showing against the Italians.
As with all pre-season warmup games, the 90 minutes is used for experimentation in formation and positional play, as much as providing entertainment for the paying public.
So what exactly did the manager learn from this match which ended in a 1-0 defeat?
Let's take a look...
Same Old Gerard Pique
New season, same old Gerard Pique.
It was as if there had been no break for the summer as time and again he was caught out of position, in particular for a quick free-kick that Insigne was unlucky not to profit from.
A penchant for playing the long ball last season was very much in evidence in this one, but far from being incisive, they were aimless and to nobody in particular.
Beaten to the high ball in the box, his below-par performance gives Enrique a lot of food for thought.
Napoli's Compact Setup
Rafa Benitez had done his homework.
Two tight banks of players, keeping everything tight and compact so Barcelona found it difficult to play in between the lines, forced the Catalans to work the ball out wide.
Unfortunately for Luis Enrique, Martin Montoya in particular wasn't providing the width required, and ultimately Barca continued attempting to play through the middle which made easy pickings for the Italians' back line.
It's a style of play in opposition that Barca must get to grips with as whenever teams employed the same against Barca last season, the Catalans struggled. Which they did again tonight.
Rakitic the Real Deal
It was as if Ivan Rakitic had played at Barcelona his whole career, so seamless was his introduction on this, his first start.
Industry, intelligent movement and his wonderful passing range. They were all on display.
A high-tempo pressing game was also a feature of his play, something that Barca have missed for a little while now.
The only disappointment, if there was one, was that no one was getting on the end of his exquisite through balls.
The Two Faces of Claudio Bravo
This was certainly a game of two halves for Claudio Bravo.
Although there wasn't much for him to do in the first period, when called upon, he was alert and quick off of his line.
A one-handed save from a goal-bound header was right out of the top drawer.
What happened at half-time to turn the 31-year-old into a nervous and unsure custodian? Clearances were poor and twice he was nearly dispossessed with the ball at his feet.
Another poor clearance fell straight to the feet of Dzemaili who was fully 35 yards from goal.
A speculative effort is meat and drink to a goalkeeper of Bravo's quality yet he inexplicably palmed the ball straight into the net. It was indicative of his second half.
Impotent Front 3
Barca have been unusually wasteful in front of goal during this pre-season with only two goals scored before tonight's game.
Against Napoli, the lack of potency was once again clear for all to see. Pedro Rodriguez especially seemed to be lacking sharpness and was unable to carve out a chance.
His shot wide on 50 minutes after a pinpoint pass from Jordi Alba summed up his evening.
Munir El-Haddadi at least showed the movement he's renowned for in Barca B and was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet himself after some intelligent link-up play.
All in all, however, Lucho will be disappointed that half a dozen chances didn't at least yield a goal.
Substitutions Make the Difference
The slew of substitutions on the hour mark and shortly afterwards certainly opened the game up a bit more than previously.
Alen Halilovic again displayed maturity beyond his tender years, with another La Masia youngster for whom there are also high hopes, Alejandro Grimaldo, also calm in possession and considered with his passing range.
Gerard Deulofeu too got himself immediately into the action as Barca played with more urgency in the latter part of the game.
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