Without Lionel Messi, it works too ! Deprived of its Captain, FC Barcelona defeated Inter Milan (2-0) on Wednesday in the champions League, moving closer to the eighths while issuing a warning to Real Madrid four days before clasico.
Messi was present in the stands of Camp Nou, his right arm in a scarf, and he must have enjoyed the show : the Brazilian Rafinha, who was filling in for the Argentinean post for post, opened the score of a boring cover at close range (32′).
And Jordi Alba added a cross-attack (83′) at the end of a very successful collective performance, where Barça did not seem to suffer from the absence until mid-November of his master to play (fractured arm).
In the Group B standings, Barcelona (1st, 9 pts) managed a full board, which opened the door to the round of 16 with three more matches to play and eight points ahead of PSV Eindhoven and Tottenham (1 pt each).
But above all, this success is a boost for the team of Ernesto Valverde, who seems to be going up in power when Real, his great rival, is facing a violent crisis.
This in no way prejudges the outcome of the clasico de Liga on Sunday at Camp Nou, as the centuries-old rivalry between the two Spanish greats transcends the momentary dynamics. But this will reassure the Catalan supporters, who are cooled by Messi’s unavailability.
Without the Argentinean, Valverde could have started the fantastic Ousmane Dembélé to bring the spark. He preferred a collective solution with Rafinha, a player trained at the club and replacing Messi poste for poste, gaucher for gaucher.
Certainly, the Brazilian doesn’t have the same talent but he delivered a successful match by combining offensive availability, defensive hargne and opportunism in the attempts (21′, 28′).
It was finally on a ball snatched by Rafinha, very close to the central round, that the scoring opened : he pushed Luis Suarez to the right, the Uruguayan placed a marvel of centre and the offensive midfielder, who had continued the action, scored a boring volley (32′) his very first goal in C1.
Suarez in ascending form
And with Coutinho very active on the other wing and striking on the cross (70′), plus a Suarez in ascending form and galvanized by the birth of his third child on Tuesday, Barça showed a more balanced face than usual.
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We’ve also seen a lot of the Brazilian Arthur scene, which is gradually merging into the role that Xavi once played, that of a metronome with subtle ball protection and always intelligent passes. He received a standing ovation from Camp Nou.
In defense too, there is progress after some recent fluttering: Gerard Piqué and Clément Lenglet, the only central defenders available in the absence of Samuel Umtiti and Thomas Vermaelen, were very good.
The Frenchman Lenglet muzzled the Argentinean forward Mauro Icardi (16′) and he could have scored on a strong pinched head stopped with difficulty by the goalkeeper (18′) and then a close-range cover (61′).
As for goalkeeper Marc-André Ter Stegen, described this week by the Catalan press as “Messi with gloves”, he was authoritarian on the few balloons he had to negotiate (50′, 57′, 78′).
In the end, the score could have been heavier in favour of Barça, who took cover at the end of the match thanks to Alba (83′). Now to the clasico, that Messi will undoubtedly be a pleasure to watch !