FC COPENHAGEN 0
In what started out to be somewhat of a training session for Barcelona, Danish cracks FC Copenhagen were eventually outfoxed by Pep Guardiola’s Catalonian armada at the Nou Camp – but not without difficulty. Despite the Blaugrana appearing unwilling to shift out of 3rd gear, their usual passing play proved too much in the end for their Scandinavian opponents. The fact that Barcelona had three goals chalked off in the first half proves how dominant they were, and each of these disallowed goals were sublime to watch in their own right. Nonetheless, the fact that these goals were disallowed highlights a slight problem currently dogging Barcelona – as much as one has to scrape the barrel to find problems in this wonderful side. Barca have a habit of trying to walk the ball into the net, and this can prove a hindrance when games need to be killed off. Certainly for the third of the three first-half disallowed goals, Gerard Pique could have easily finished himself instead of squaring to an offside Lionel Messi to tap home. With such a hectic schedule coupled with a shallow and young squad, Guardiola could have done with having this game won by half time in order to give his over-worked stars a well-earned rest in preparation for the weekend league game – part of a championship race that looks set to go to the wire. However, this would be unfair to Los Cules – the supporters who flock to be entertained by their first-team heroes, and no player has greater hero status than little Leo Messi.
The Argentinean was utilised in a deep-lying central attacking position, as opposed to switching between either flanks. This allowed the forward to be ever-available for his teammates by dropping deep to pick up the ball and run with freedom at defenders or play Villa or Iniesta in. He also provided an outlet when Barca were defending; transforming from sitting deep to at times being the only player in the opposition half when on the back foot. This makes best use of the player, as his constant availability coupled with Copenhagen’s apparent willingness to back off him made Messi a nightmare to deal with for the Danes. The free role suits Messi down to the ground, as due to the fact that he is exceptionally good, always giving him the ball will always cause problems for the opposition, especially the lesser teams.
Apart from coming agonisingly close to equalising after an out-of-the-blue rasping shot from Dame N’Doye, Copenhagen were kept at bay by the occasionally ropey-looking Barca rearguard. After narrowing their ranks in the second half to try and muster the Barca cavalry, Copenhagen almost took advantage of the erratic defending that has reared its ugly head at times this season. However, class prevailed on the night, but Barcelona’s killer instinct is not yet in full flow.
2 Alves – 3 Pique – 5 Puyol – 22 Abidal
15 Keita – 6 Xavi – 19 Maxwell
10 Messi – 7 Villa – 8 Iniesta
72 – 6 Xavi on for 7 Villa
72 – 17 Pedro on for 19 Maxwell
15 Keita on for 8 Iniesta