If Barça`s exhibition tonight in the 46th edition of the Joan Gamper trophy is anything to go by then we are in for an absolute treat of a season. Napoles, who finished 3rd in Serie A last season, were completely blown away by the passing skills of Iniesta, Thiago, Fabregas, Messi and Xavi. Yes, it was only a friendly, and yes Napoles did not find the intensity that any team will need to find to contain this current Barça team, so we should not read too much into it, but the slickness of our passing was sublime at times and it is extremely encouraging to see how well the new and younger players did.
Of course, as is customary in these games there were are great number of substitutions but the stars were evenly divided into the two halves which meant we had a first half team with Iniesta, Piqué, Fabregas and Villa alongside youngsters such as Martin Montoya or new B-team signing Kiko Femenia. The first half was all about Cesc Fabregas who was given a “false 9” role and he immediately looked our most dangerous player though he misjudged his chip on his first chance and then blazed wide his next chance after a brilliant dummy from Villa. However, on 26 minutes Adriano beat the Napoles right back with a neat stepover and sent a killer ball across to Fabregas who demonstrated a good ability to get into the right place at the right time. The second goal came soon after after a splendid move which was reminiscent of a handball team circling the opposition area waiting to make the move, the move ended with Keita playing the ball forward to Villa who knocked it back to Iniesta who chipped forward for Keita surging into the area to score with a looping header over the goalkeeper. The best from Cesc came just before half time, shortly after just failing to find Iniesta with a through pass, Fabregas found a beauty of a pass though to Villa who despite dinking the ball over the keeper, was frustrated by a defender getting back to clear.
There were five Barça changes at half time and we looked weaker now on paper but we began the second half with an incredible secuence where we hit the woodwork three times, but it was when Messi came on in place of Cesc followed shortly after by Xavi. Mascherano, Busquets and Abidal that our domination was made more evident. Messi had only been on for four minutes when he curled a 30 yard free kick towards the top corner for what would have been a brilliant goal but for the goalkeeper tipping the ball against the crossbar, but the keeper’s luck ran out there as Pedro had peeled off the wall and was quickest to head home the rebound.
It was normal perhaps that the Italians dropped a little but this gave us a chance to see some fantastic combinations from Barça. In the 66th minute Sergio Roberto played the ball square to Messi who knocked it back to Xavi who hit it first time for Pedro on the left who squared for Messi’s tap in. Barça’s fifth came after a poor defensive clearance went straight to Abidal who played a pass forward to Messi who had time to turn and fire a powerful low shot into the far corner from 15 yards.
All in all an excellent night, Messi was sublime as usual while Cesc Fabregas looked totally at home in the team. Of the youngsters I continue to be impressed by Marc Bartra and I would still bet on him turning out better than Andreu Fontas but we shall see. I also liked Sergio Roberto again but with so much talent in front of him it is difficult to know if he can make it at Barça. We now have just four days to prepare for our next big challenge: the European Supercup against Porto on Friday. The quest for all six titles this season continues.
Barça: Pinto, Montoya (Dos Santos m45), Piqué (Bartra m45), Fontas (Mascherano m63), Adriano (Abidal m63); Thiago (Xavi m59), Keita (Busquets m63), Iniesta (Sergio Roberto m45); Kiko Femenia (Cuenca m45), Fabregas (Messi m57), Villa (Pedro m45)
Goals: m26 Fabregas 1-0, m31 Keita 2-0, m62 Pedro 3-0, m66 Messi 4-0, m77 Messi 5-0
Watch the goals here