Another curious Barcelona display was highlighted with goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen pulling off the pass of the match during their 2-0 win at Getafe.
The German’s long ball forward in the 41st minute found Luis Suarez who broke the deadlock at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez.
Junior Firpo then doubled the advantage on the other side of the break, tucking away a rebound after Carles Perez’s effort from range was parried into his path.
The result handed Ernesto Valverde’s side their first away victory of the season but did little to reassure their fans after a poor start to the campaign.
LIFE IN OLD DOG
The demands from various sections of the Catalunya support for Suarez to be dropped have never been more pronounced than they were ahead of this clash. The striker had only scored in one outing this season with his performances deemed significantly below par, patience was wearing thin.
However, Valverde has stood by the former Liverpool forward, citing a four-week long injury lay-off and scant playing time for his discernible lack of sharpness. That said, injuries to Lionel Messi, Ousmane Dembele and Ansu Fatu hardly left the Barca boss with an alternative to keeping faith in the 32-year-old.
With the opening goal at Getafe, Suarez took a step towards a mini resurgence. It was not a strong enough performance to silence his critics but at least he established that he’s got some life in him yet.
‘Fine-tuning’ – as Valverde put it – is still required. Suarez had three excellent one-on-one opportunities and only converted one of them. The encouraging bit though is that he had the sharpness to run in behind and latch on to those passes, even if he didn’t capitalise on two of them and was caught offside on a couple of other occasions.
BARCA CRACKS REMAIN
It does not bode well for the champions of Spain that their goalkeeper made arguably their biggest contributions in both attack and defence. Ter Stegen made a couple of outstanding saves to keep Getafe at bay and even took matters into his own hands in possession.
The Germany international was quick off his line to sweep up behind his centre-backs in the 22nd minute before finding Suarez with a superb ball over the top. In doing so, he became the first Barcelona keeper to provide an assist in the 21st century.
His pass saw the Catalans break the deadlock moments before half-time and was almost symbolic of how far they’ve fallen from their lofty ideals in terms of their playing philosophy. The famed tiki-taka brand was nowhere in sight, instead replaced – at least momentarily – by some good old fashioned route one football.
In the absence of Messi, Fati and Dembele, Barca were severely lacking in creativity with no one able to better Ter Stegen’s tally of one key pass. Goals came from a long ball forward and the left-back turning in a rebound. Hardly scintillating stuff.
To make matters worse, not only did the defence look suspect again but Clement Lenglet’s sending off means 19-year-old centre-back Jean-Clair Todibo may have to start their next league fixture.
WHERE ARE GETAFE GOING?
This had the makings of a famous win for the hosts. They haven’t beaten Barcelona in the league since 2011 and this was as good a time as any to end that wait. They had two or three great chances to score but didn’t take advantage.
Following a sensational fifth place finish last season, you have to ask where Getafe are going this term. The current campaign has been littered with missed opportunities as they’ve drawn four matches already.
Jose Bordalas’s side are contending with Europa League responsibilities this season but fatigue is a real concern and how much will those excursions affect their La Liga campaign?
Barcelona travel to Coliseum Alfonso Perez for a demanding away tie as Getafe look to maintain their unbeaten record at home.
The Catalans are fresh from a 2-1 win over Villarreal at home, well aware that a win in Madrid will require a special performance.
A mid-week Champions League fixture against Inter Milan provides coach Ernesto Valverde the rotation dilemma and injury to Lionel Messi complicates the matter further.
We take a look at the talking points ahead of the weekend tie.
Time for Suarez to see the bench
Luis Suarez has struggled heavily since his knee injury from last season but Valverde has remained patient and publicly vouched for the Uruguayan. However, there are no signs of improvement and it’s just a question of when rather than if he loses his status as a starter.
The 32-year-old scored a brace against Valencia but has not produced a constructive moment ever since. Two years ago, Suarez, with his astute positioning and movement proved fruitful even when he could not register himself on the scoresheet.
But he is now a liability, rarely on the same wavelength as his team-mates and often acts as a roadblock to promising passages of play. It’s time Suarez keeps his ego aside, subjects himself to a bench role and helps the team as much as he can as a super-sub like he did against Valencia.
Valverde must consider starting Ousmane Dembele and Ansu Fati on either side of Antoine Griezmann. This will also allow the former Atletico Madrid man to play in a central role.
Is Alena forgotten?
Ever since the emergence of Fati from the La Masia ranks, the murmurs surrounding yet another academy product in Carles Alena have diminished.
The 21-year-old was tipped to grab a sporadic role this season before stepping up to play a bigger part. But he has not played a single minute after Barcelona’s La Liga opener. He was never injured or suspended, but he was not provided any minutes. The midfielder did not even make the match-day squad on some occasions and is now in need of minutes.
With a tough Champions League tie against Inter on Wednesday, Valverde could consider some serious rotations in midfield. Frenkie de Jong and Sergio Busquets started on the bench against Villarreal and are likely to start against Getafe. Alena should start at the expense of Arthur, who can do with some rest before the big game on Wednesday.
Expect lots of goals
Contrary to the reputation they built last season, Getafe are far from being experts in defence. A side that conceded fewer goals than Barcelona and Real Madrid last season has already given away nine goals in six games – just two fewer than the worst defence that belongs to Valencia (11).
In their last two games, the Madrid side conceded five goals but also scored seven. They beat Mallorca 4-2 before drawing 3-3 with Valencia. Jaime Mata has already stepped on the gas, scoring three goals and registering one assist so far.
Despite their struggles and injury to Messi, Barcelona are still statistically the best attack with 14 goals. Griezmann has fit in reasonably well and Fati has shown great promise in the final third.
At the same time, Barcelona’s defence has been shambolic so far. They are conceding goal-scoring opportunities habitually and are very vulnerable at the back. Six games into the season and the Catalan side are yet to keep a clean sheet.
These facts point to the possibility of a lot of goals when the two teams lock horns on Saturday.
The Wanda Metropolitano is set to host one of the fiercest derbies in the world as Atletico Madrid take on Real Madrid on Saturday.
Both teams started their campaign on a shaky note and did not win their Champions League tie last week. But convincing wins in the mid-week games has handed the two teams a boost ahead of the big game.
A derby is bound to feature some individual duels on the pitch that could determine the outcome of the game. We look at the key-battles.
EDEN HAZARD V KIERAN TRIPPIER
Eden Hazard and Kieran Trippier will bring elements of the London derby to Madrid when they occupy the same flank on Saturday.
An incredible performance by Vinicius Junior against Osasuna should help him stake his claim for a starter’s role but Zinedine Zidane is likely to pick the experienced Belgian for such a big game. This means that the former Chelsea man will be under pressure to justify his spot in the line-up, given he has struggled and is yet to register a goal or assist this season.
Hazard will have to overcome a familiar foe in former Tottenham full-back Kieran Trippier. On the other hand, the Englishman has enjoyed a positive start to life in Madrid. He has been one of their best players so far and Europe noticed this during his splendid display against Juventus.
THOMAS PARTEY V CASEMIRO
Both players are in great form and have rarely hit a bump this season. Casemiro has been the solid defensive screen protecting the shaky back-line whereas Partey has alternated between undertaking the role of a defensive midfielder and a box-to-box one.
The defensive-minded Ghanian midfielder offers a lot even in attack and has been the pivot for Los Rojiblancos. He played a crucial role in their win against Mallorca that ended a three-match win-less streak across all competitions.
His high work-rate and ability to launch counter-attacks could be key to Atletico in a game where the opposition is likely to enjoy more possession. On such an occasion, Casemiro will be tested, with both full-backs high up the pitch.
The Brazilian must be cautious at all times and throw in tactical fouls when needed. He might have to cover massive amounts of space because of the poor sense of positioning of Madrid’s centre-backs.
DIEGO COSTA V SERGIO RAMOS
Spanish team-mates Diego Costa and Sergio Ramos will lock horns in Madrid’s defensive half. The former scored four goals when Atletico forced a 7-3 rout over their rivals in a pre-season friendly. Ramos displayed a defensive disaster-class in that class but is now in positive spirits of a solid show against Osasuna.
Costa has scored one goal and assisted another in the league this season but he was average against Juventus in the Champions League. The 30-year-old has forged a good partnership with youngster Joao Felix and will be motivated to shine in a derby he cherishes.
Ramos needs to put in a disciplined shift to stop the striker who sunk his team during the UEFA Super Cup last year from repeating his exploits. Given the tendency of both players to wind each other up, they will need to show great composure to emerge victorious in this match-up. A red card to either or both the player is not that unlikely.