There have been more headlines in the press this week about the imminence of Cesc Fabregas signing for Barça. However, Thiago Alcantara gave a performance tonight in the Allianz Arena stadium in Munich that would suggest that we have this midfield position very well covered. The situation with Cesc seems to be that Arsenal have given Barça an ultimatum of this Friday as being the last day they are willing to do business. However, the bottom line is that Arsenal don’t want to sell the player for any less than €45 million and Barça seem reluctant to go much higher than around €36 million. Despite all the paper talk I will be surprised if we do sign him now. Thiago was already one of the most in-form players of the preseason but tonight he was excellent and he capped his performance by scoring both goals.
Preseason games in the past used to be played against lower division Dutch teams and it was not uncommon for Barça to win by scores of around 12-0. These days we play in front of big crowds against top opposition. Judging by all the pomp and glitz before the game the Germans seemed to be using the occasion of today’s Audi Cup final to prepare for the Champions League final which they will host next May. I just hope they can decide to dump the overhead camera view, at least during the play. I don’t mind if they use it for replays but during the game it just makes me feel giddy on my barstool. Anyway, at least the conditions of a big crowd meant that the game was reasonably intense and it was again impressive to see how quickly we settled into our stride. The passing was generally very good which meant we saw the typical pattern of keeping our opponent pressed back. Perhaps the most unusual thing about our team today was the position of Johnathan dos Santos at right back; he didn’t do too badly but nearly all the danger that came from Bayern came down that side. Valdés was forced into making a couple of saves, one of which was an excellent one-on-one block.
Our forwards did not look too sharp though I thought Soriano had probably his best game for the first team and it was his cross from the left that found Thiago running in from the right to leap above the left back and head home the opening goal just before half time. The play dropped a little as the game entered the last half hour but our players showed themselves to be in pretty good physical condition, Thiago, Fontas and Keita all played the entire 90 minutes. The youngsters who came on during the second half all did well and I confess that I like the look of Marti Riverola.
The game’s crowning moment came in the 75th minute. Thiago controlled the ball from a long crossfield pass, he then knocked the ball inside to Afellay who laid the ball back and Thiago then curled in the most beautiful shot from 25 yards which gave keeper Butt no chance. Thiago’s confidence is rising and it is showing in his play, it would be a shame now if Fabregas somehow blocked his path.
Tonight’s team: Valdés (Pinto h/t), Dos Santos (Carmona m76), Busquets (Piqué m76), Fontas, Maxwell (Jeffren m55); Thiago, Keita, Iniesta (Riverola m61); Villa (Armando m84), Soriano (Cuenca m66), Pedro (Afellay m61).