F.C Barcelona kicked off their Champions League campaign last night at the Nou Camp as they faced Russian side, Spartak Moscow. Barça, the clear favorites of the Group G fixture, managed a victory, but Emery’s side surely handed the Blaugranas a challenge as Barcelona was forced to struggle back from a one-goal deficit. And to boot, Barcelona’s defense took yet another hit as Piqué has been ruled out for 2-3 weeks after an injury during the match, meaning that he will be unavailable for the next ‘El Clasico’ set for October 7th. Tito now faces the daunting challenge of finding a quick solution to that broken backline, as Barça prepares for their next La Liga Match to be played on Saturday, September 22nd against Granada.
1. Tito Praises Squad on Eagerness to Win
FC Barcelona coach, Tito Vilanova, praised his squad on their effort following the one goal deficit against Spartak Moscow. “The fight back proves that this team is eager to win”. Barça has enjoyed a winning streak since the season started, and for a minute there it looked like they may have been in trouble as Emery’s side were swift and dangerous on the counter. It may have been a miscommunication between Valdes and Alves that led to Spartak’s equalizer, an own goal by Alves, but that put the game in motion forcing FC Barcelona’s hand. “When we were behind we changed our style of play and that gave us more options going forward. Of course, that means we were a bit more vulnerable at the back.”
2. From an Own Goal to Glory
Youngster Telllo marked Barcelona’s first goal in the 13th minute after receiving the ball from Xavi, nailing a low, hard right-footed shot past Spartak GK, Dikan. It was however the defensive gaff by Alves that put the wheels in motion as Barcelona was not only forced to equalize, but to be victorious in their quest. Tello, once again, stepped up to the plate handing Messi the equalizing goal on a metaphorical silver platter. Messi would go on to hand Blaugrana the winning goal just minutes before the final whistle was blown, making him the fourth all-time goal scorer in Champions League history, just 17 shy of Raúl. This may very well be the season that Messi goes on to break this record, and plenty more.
3. Defensive Hit – FC Barcelona Sans Puyol and Piqué
The Barcelona backline took another unwelcome hit last night as Piqué suffered an injury by spraining his left foot in the 7th minute. Medical tests have confirmed that he will be unable to play for at least two weeks, meaning that the Catalan defender will miss the much anticipated ‘El Clasico’ on October 7th. More importantly, Tito now faces the challenge of finding a solid solution to his continuous defensive problems. In last night’s match, Tito substituted Song for Piqué, claiming that Song had more experience in bringing the ball out from the back, since he has played in that pivotal position numerous times. As for youngsters, Bartra and Fontas, it seems they will have to wait for their chance to play. Tito, now left with Alves, Mascherano and Busquets, may very well be forced to grant Bartra and Fontas a chance at showing the world what they can do. The squad’s defensive woes, sans Puyol and Piqué, could not have come at a worse time, but perhaps a blessing in disguise as Tito will now be forced to find an alternative and fix this ailing concern once and for all.
4. Emery Remains Unsuccessful at the Nou Camp
Despite his side’s loss, Unai Emery had much to be proud of. Spartak Moscow surely held their own against Group G favorites, FC Barcelona. Emery, one of the managers that has never been victorious at the Nou Camp, continued his losing streak last night, but added that he had been lucky enough to come to the Nou Camp six times.
5. Barça Looks Ahead to La Liga
Barcelona hope to continue their unbeaten streak as they take on Granada this Saturday. The only question remaining is whether the shaky backline will impede their immediate road ahead? Tito is sure to have a solution to this problem, and in the grand scheme of things, if he can successfully alter that defense, he may just set himself apart from Pep, once and for all.
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