Lionel Messi makes the difference as Barcelona beat Napoli 3-1 in an incident-packed first half on Saturday and advance to the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals.
In this editorial review, our top editors evaluate and analyse the team’s performance from yesterday’s match.
Revitalized Catalans aimed for WAR
The post lockdown La Liga campaign never worked well for Barcelona. Coming into this match, the players were energised and had their focus on winning. The blueprint of “Let’s go full attacking mode in the first half, take the lead and in the second half, let’s just sit back, waste counters and pray that opposition doesn’t make a comeback” was visible throughout the match. The pressing scheme by Barcelona worked like a charm since it caused havoc in Napoli’s half. Most impressive from a tactical viewpoint was the defensive organisation and the players willing to snatch the ball as soon as possible.
Sahil Dani’s Man of the match: Even though La Pulga scored that mindblowing goal and earned the penalty. But Lenglet was the real hero tonight. Frenkie was real close for his best performance in Barcelona colours tonight, but Lenglet was gold. The Frenchman is underrated for a reason
🔎 | FOCUS
Clément Lenglet vs Napoli:
⏱️ 90' played
👌 89 touches (most for Barcelona)
⚽️ 1 goal
🔭 5/7 acc. long balls
👟 69/73 acc. passes
🛑 4 blocked shots
🚀 3 clearances
🧲 2 interceptions
📈 8.3 SofaScore rating
— Sofascore (@SofascoreINT) August 8, 2020
The Only Positive- We are through
A match which on paper looks a great win for Barca, but the performance was dreadful. Except for some magic moments from Messi, there was very little from this match to be cheerful for. Napoli dominated the ball and made good chances at the start. Barca scored a rare goal from a corner as Lenglet headed the ball into the net. Then the Messi moment happened. Despite being pushed on the ground, our captain found a way for the shot and scored Barca’s second. Messi finished for his second goal, but it was ruled out for a controversial handball. Messi again was involved as he won a penalty of Koulabily leaving Barca fans in concern as he was seriously knocked. But he recovered and played the whole 90.
The second half was dreadful, to say the least. Napoli attacked as Barca were sitting back and played on the counterattacks. Also, the substitutions of Setien didn’t make sense. Brought on Monchu but Puig and Fati were seriously ignored and remained on the bench despite being amazing in the league.
Abuzar’s Man of the match: De Jong. Coming after an injury, he was the very few positives from the match. He was everywhere on the pitch and was dominant in his role. Would love to give Messi the MoM but overall with both the halves, De Jong deserves it.
Frenkie de Jong in action against Napoli
Sumptuous start with rather a Discontending end.
Champions league is all about the thrill, it’s about how a team fights within those given 90 mins. First half was soo excellent. Barca took an early lead with from superb header from Lenglet at 10 mins. Then we saw Messi casually being Messi and showing the kind of goal only he can execute. Messi was combining well with De jong. We were solid upfront, creating chances. Pique and Lenglet were solid at the back. Messi scored another goal from a beautiful ball from De jong, but it was called offside for handball. We had a comfortable 3-1 lead before going into the next half. In the second half, Napoli was clearly taking Barca by their feet. They came on, and they were making better chances. It was the moment many felt that maybe it was time for Puig to come to rejuvenate the team a bit. We have seen how Puig has shown his impact coming as a sub for the team. Setien was just too late to make the changes. Surely, like said, it’s imperative not to disturb the rhythm of a good game, but second-half clearly was slipping from our hands. Barca needed a change. Barca couldn’t create good chances in the second half. It’s just that, if we play like the first half, we will easily get past Bayern, but if we play like how we played the second half, we are going to be thrashed by Bayern like how they ruined Chelsea. That’s it.
Sweta’s Man of the match: Clearly, Messi. Messi scored, his second goal should have stood, he won the penalty, and he was upfront creating chances too.
Messi settles Maradona derby
Five and a half months of pondering seem to have brought the two managers to very different solutions. While Setien would have liked to have more of the ball, Gattuso pushed his men to dominate in good areas with about 50% possession. Learning from their mistakes in the first half, Barcelona didn’t press the CBs instead preferred blocking passing lines (Koulibaly playing long balls to Insigne, with Rui trying to draw Semedo). With Messi not pressing too high, the ball usually progressed through Mario Rui (either directly or by quick switches from the right to Rui) who would progress with the ball. On the other side, with Mertens dropping on the right, the Catalans tried to create an overload, which left many central spaces for the Azzurri to exploit. Although the Blaugrana faithful wouldn’t have enjoyed an away team dominating the ball and having close to 18 shots in the game, it was easier to break the press. Napoli shifted to a two-man forward pressing line (usually one of the CMs and the striker), while the wingers marked the opposition FBs. This left a lot of space in the middle for one of the forwards to drop into (either Griezmann and Messi or either one of the two) to help progress the ball (especially in the space behind Koulibaly, who would press the opponent with the ball aggressively).
Adithya’s Man of the match: Messi has to be the Man of the match, with a stunning goal (and a disallowed goal) and a penalty won with 13/19 ground duels won while trying to unsettle the ball progressor.
Job done in a rather underwhelming fashion.
Barca got the result, but the way they got it wasn’t very reassuring. If it wasn’t for individual players having fantastic performances, this game could’ve gone differently. Lenglet opened the scoring with a fantastic, crucial header. Messi then scored an absolutely out of the world, an incredible goal that only he can score. Messi also won a penalty that Suarez, who was overall poor on the night, tucked away brilliantly.
However, Barca weren’t really that good up until that point. They did not control the ball, did not take the game to the opposition, and they were happy to soak up the pressure. That’s not the Barca way, that’s not our identity.
Things didn’t improve in the second half either. I’ve not seen Barca sit back and defend like a Jose Mourinho side ever. I wasn’t happy with the way we played—another game where we just grinded out a result. We’re through to the Quarters, but I hope we turn up in that game. I hope we can find a way to win. The most important thing is that we won today, so Visca El Barca! Let’s try to win this competition!
Umer’s Man of the match: Messi. Lenglet and De Jong’s performances shouldn’t go unnoticed, but Messi was our only source of creativity tonight.
German champions Bayern Munich await Barcelona in the quarterfinals after beating Chelsea 4-1 on Saturday to complete a 7-1 aggregate victory.