Barcelona vs Alaves came a few days before the much-awaited clash in the Champions League. The Catalans had to approach this game with due respect if they didn’t want to drop any points to the visitors from Vitoria.
Junior Firpo also was included in the eleven with a chance to impress in La Liga match-up. The Spaniard didn’t have too many chances this season, but this game was a good opportunity for some players to get their confidence back and potentially challenge for starting spots in the fu
Barcelona vs Alaves – tactical setup and positional approach
With the dropping of De Jong in CB position, there were possibilities of a back three for this game, but also the more conventional 4-3-3. This picture perfectly illustrates the importance of Mingueza on this right side. When tucked in and keeping his position, the shape of the team was almost resembling a 3-4-3 with Firpo and Trincao out wide. However, Alaves defended the majority of the game with ten men behind the ball and waited to convert some chances on the counter-attack. With that approach, Barcelona had a chance to commit more players forward, and eventually, Mingueza assumed a more advanced position pushing the team to the 4-3-3 shape.
Messi in the middle
It baffles me how with that many men behind the ball Alaves managed to leave Messi alone for his first goal. Shot outside of the box where four Alaves players were in close proximity to Messi but eventually wasn’t enough.
Alaves made the same mistake for Messi’s second goal. Isolated in the middle of the field the situation almost invites Messi to turn right and shoot. A mesmerizing goal for Leo, but a lot more to be desired from Alaves in those two situations.
Leo Messi had another stellar game. Apart from one moment where he was through on goal and failed to score, Messi was in the centre of everything interesting for Barcelona in attack. In the position he plays, his role is to produce for others and also finish chances himself. His heatmap(touchmap) is almost identical to the prototypical No. 10.
Ilaix Moriba debut performance review
Ilaix Moriba was the surprise addition in the starting eleven with the youngster making his La Liga debut. He was very lively, an exceptional start to the game, and could’ve finished the game with no only one assist. The La Masia graduate was very positive in his movement and tried to offer that dynamic presence in the midfield. He was instrumental in the first goal arriving late to the far post, controlling the ball, and just putting it on a plate for either Messi or Trincao.
Trincao decided to take the responsibility, shot the ball, and scored for the first assist of Ilaix in the Spanish top tier. Moriba had few more chances in the first-half, and with a couple of very good runs into the penalty area, he was uncomfortable to deal with.
The youngster could’ve had a goal and assist to his name on his debut, but his run was neglected from Trincao, and the Portuguese with a pathetic finish ruined an absolute gem of an attacking movement from Blaugrana.
A bizarre, selfish, and frustrating decision from the Portuguese, considering Moriba provided him with an assist for the first goal, but something typical for Barcelona this season – individualism rather than teamwork.
Moriba made a mistake that led to the only goal for Alaves in the game. He looked for Lenglet on a long-range lateral pass that was intercepted by Luis Rioja, who went on to score. The mistake is purely from inexperience. Those types of passes are extremely dangerous when the opposition is that high up the pitch.
To this day many people criticize players that prefer to play the ball wide and backwards rather than look for more advanced options. Players like Lucas Leiva, Jorginho, and even Rodri, have been much maligned about their “safe” passing approach.
With experience and the games Moriba plays, he will cut those mistakes out and this is nothing to be too concerned about. The youngster shouldn’t hold his head down because of it. He had an exceptional debut, and if we can assume he will only progress with his development, the young core of Barcelona will be very, very good.
With La Liga being an almost foregone conclusion, this game served as a good appetizer before the Champions League clash this Tuesday against PSG. Fair to say that all the energy is concentrated on a positive Champions League campaign, but the good thing is that this game was used as the rhythm gainer and not just a formality.