Barça has plenty of Camp Nou goals. It does not have players who finish or make a difference but it is a team full of promising footballers who parade like applied schoolchildren trained in La Masia. They do not admit academic comparison, recognizable on the court and in the dining room, applauded even in Beijing. The attitude is equally irreproachable and they offer themselves brave at a critical moment at the Camp Nou. Nobody doubts that they defend the style of Barça. There is, however, no one who scores a goal even by chance in Xavi’s team. The Catalans, with seven points, now need to beat Bayern in Munich on the last day if Benfica, with five, beat Dinamo in Lisbon. A draw or defeat for the Portuguese would classify Barcelona regardless of their result.
Ter Stegen, Piqué, Clement Lenglet (Sergiño Dest, min. 85), Ronald Araújo (Eric Garcia, min. 85), Frenkie De Jong, Alba, Yusuf Demir (Ousmane Dembélé, min. 65), Busquets, Depay, Pablo Páez Gavira and Nico González
Vlachodimos, Vertonghen, Otamendi, André Almeida, João Mário (Taarabt, min. 58), Grimaldo (Seferovic, min. 80), Gilberto Junior, Julian Weigl, Everton (Pizzi, min. 69), Rafa Silva (Lazaro, min. 69) and Yaremchuk (Darwin Núñez, min. 58)
Referee Sergey Karasev
Yellow cards Grimaldo (min. 35), João Mário (min. 48), Piqué (min. 48), Vlachodimos (min. 91) and Taarabt (min. 94)
Barça’s joviality and ingenuity contrasted with Benfica’s maturity and craft. The Portuguese calmly await Dynamo Kiev while the Barça players will play it out on the Bayern pitch. Betting on Barça in Munich is difficult after they did not resolve their qualification for the second round with a win against Benfica. The draw was a disappointment after the laborious game of the Barcelona youth, a team as brave as clean, more impulsive than clairvoyant, still sterile in a period of reconstruction after regaining its identity with Xavi.
The coach has changed the mood of Barça. The images attest that there is joy in training, the surveys support the enthusiasm of the fans, the coach is no longer murmured in the box, the press sells optimism and even injured people like Dembélé sign up for the most demanding matches in case it is a last effort is needed at the Camp Nou. Xavi smiles, touches, talks about self-esteem and shakes a team that got bored and loathed people in matches designed to attract tourists who weren’t afraid to travel to Barcelona.
Xavi does not play with three centrals but with a 3-4-3. The signature is decisive in evaluating a coach and the former captain is linked with Cruyff and Guardiola and with that revolutionary drawing that appeared on nights that demanded a solemn performance in the days of the Dream Team and not with the desperate drawing of disillusioned coaches of the Barça. The plan evolves with Xavi. The declaration of intent, however, does not solve the structural defects expressed in the two goals scored in five Champions League games.
The Catalans tried to play as a unit, dynamic in attack and retreat, fast and intense in their start against Benfica. Barça wanted to generate a game on the outside with Demir and Jordi Alba and on the inside with De Jong, Nico and Gavi while Araujo, Lenglet and Piqué closed behind Busquets. The pressure worked better than the crafting waiting for Memphis to get hooked. It is difficult for the team to finish the play, deepen and put the last pass, generate chances against any opponent, very harmless, also against Benfica. Tightened by the Catalans, it was difficult for the Portuguese to get out of the midfield, away from the goals, also from Odysseas.
Jorge Jesús should have noticed the Espanyol game. The tactic consists of holding on until Barça is consumed, exhausted by the effort, incapable of generating danger and imbalance, lacking Ansu. The daring, powerful and even fine game of Gavi and Nico does not always find continuity in the extremes and Memphis. Reached half an hour, only Alba demanded the goalkeeper after Demir failed either. The defensive concessions, on the other hand, continue to be clamorous: Benfica only had two corner kicks to frighten Barça.
Ter Stegen took a shot from Yaremchuck and immediately afterwards the linesman annulled a goal from Otamendi. The fans were trying to protect themselves from fear and the downpour when Demir appeared. The Austrian winger, who started ahead of Coutinho in the absence of Ilias and Abde, claimed the heat of the 49,500 fans nonstop after finishing off the right crossbar.
The meeting soon recovered the derby script to the point that the departure of Darwin Núñez recalled the moments of Raúl de Tomás. The ball went from goal to goal without stopping until Dembélé appeared. The Frenchman absorbed the game at times and forced Benfica to stop after a cross to De Jong that spectacularly neutralized Odysseas. Jorge Jesús did not take long to bend the left flank to stop Dembélé and the encounter recovered a melee that surpassed the rampant Memphis. The resignation of the Dutchman was as reprehensible as the triumph of the class of Nico and Gavi and the determination of Araujo, overthrown by a disallowed goal in full attack by Barça and counterattack by Benfica, who forgave twice against Ter Stegen. The goals shrunk with the Camp Nou rain.
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