Barcelona-Racing Review: Six Things We Learned About Barca for 2010-11
Barcelona started defending their La Liga title today with an impressive 3-0 win at Santander. Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta scored in the first half and David Villa scored his first goal in La Liga with the blaugrana jersey in the second half to make it 3-0.
Despite some wrong referee calls against Barcelona, like giving Santander a disputable (at best) penalty and wrongly disallowing David Villa's goal at the end of the first half, Barcelona had no trouble securing the three points and won this match at ease.
The only bad news is that Carles Puyol got injured right before the match and Xavi was replaced at halftime also due to injury. Fortunately, according to Barcelona's official website, both Puyol and Xavi's injuries are minor. They were only rested as a precaution and will be back in no time.
All in all, an easy victory for Barcelona. Fans have every reason to believe that this team will bring a lot of success to the club this season.
The Defensive Line and the Team As a Whole Need To Be More Focused
This is probably the only negative aspect of this match: Barcelona missed some passes and gave up possession in dangerous places a couple of times, which is not usual in Guardiola's team. Against stronger opposition, such mistakes can be costly.
Daniel Alves and Piqué (despite having overall good performances) had some of these childish mistakes and even Busquets and Iniesta misplaced some passes. Against quality opposition, Barcelona will certainly be more focused and not repeat such mistakes.
Eric Abidal Can Play As a Centre-Back
Once again, Guardiola decided to play Abidal at the centre-back position, alongside Piqué (who wasn't originally supposed to play but had to fill in for Puyol). And, once again, Abidal stepped up to the occasion and performed brilliantly (he remained focused during the entire match and didn't make any mistakes), showing that he is a very reliable centre-back option.
With Abidal able to play (well) both as a left-back and as a centre-back, Barcelona gains extra quality and depth as far as their defense is concerned.
Andrés Iniesta Can Play As a Winger
This isn't exactly breaking news, but rather a confirmation.
Guardiola decided to leave Pedro on the bench and play Iniesta as a winger. The little magician didn't disappoint and produced a magnificent performance capped with an extraordinary goal.
In the second half, Pedro came into the match and Iniesta took Xavi's spot in Barcelona's midfield, which is where he feels more comfortable and is more used to playing. However, if necessary, Iniesta proved he is also a great option for the wings, which makes him an even more useful player for Guardiola.
A healthy Iniesta (unlike last season) will be fundamental for Barcelona's success.
David Villa Will Be Far More Useful Than Zlatan Ibrahimovic
David Villa isn't still at his best, but he is already showing glimpses of his immense quality. He scored his first official goal with Barcelona (and he had a goal wrongly disallowed), he showed great determination and work ethic, and he combined with Messi and the rest of the team as if he had played for Barcelona all his life.
David Villa will certainly be a pivotal player in Barcelona's season. He will score a lot of goals and his combination with Lionel Messi promises to be deadly.
Victor Valdés Is a World-Class Goalkeeper
Every great team needs a great goalkeeper and Victor Valdés is definitely a great goalkeeper.
With Barcelona monopolizing possession and playing mostly in the opponent's half, Valdés doesn't exactly have much work. However, whenever he is tested, he passes with flying colors. Today's match was a fine example of that: Not only did Valdés brilliantly save a penalty, but he stopped Racing's rare chances with class and authority.
Valdés presence provides safety to the team: All the players know they can concentrate their efforts on attack because their goalkeeper won't let them down.
Barcelona Are The Odds-On Favorites To Win La Liga
Again, this comes as no surprise.
Real Madrid's draw at Mallorca today showed that Mourinho still has a lot of work to do before Real Madrid can even think of challenging Barcelona.
Barcelona showed the same perfect chemistry they've shown over the last two seasons and Real Madrid proved that they're still a work in progress.
As far as I'm concerned, only sloppy performances from Barcelona can prevent them from winning their third straight La Liga title.
Maybe in the future Real Madrid can pose a threat to Barcelona's dominance, but right now, and I might be wrong, it really doesn't seem so.