Barça 4 Zaragoza 0

With the big game coming up soon at Real Madrid it was vital that we made no mistakes against Zaragoza tonight at Camp Nou. A competent rather than excellent performance proved to be more than enough against a poor opponent and goals from Gerard Piqué, Leo Messi, Carles Puyol and David Villa earned us the three points.

With some players recovering from international duty and a big game at the San Siro on Wednesday it was not so surprising to see a starting lineup without Mascherano, Iniesta, Villa, Abidal, Busquets and Pedro. Leo Messi did start which seems to confirm that he is fit enough these days to play twice a week no matter how many airport terminals he has passed through and he was accompanied up front with Isaac Cuenca and Alexis playing wide with Cesc Fabregas supporting with runs forward from midfield. Zaragoza’s defensive formation meant that our 4-3-3 might better be described as 2-5-3 as Alves and Maxwell  also pushed forward, in the 9th minute our first chance arrived after Alves surged forward before finding Fabregas darting into the right of the area, Cesc managed a dangerous cross but it just eluded Messi’s lunge and when Alexis screwed the ball back across goal Zaragoza keeper Roberto was quick to pounce before Messi could recover.

With Puyol and Piqué in the team we had a bit more attacking power for set pieces and in the 16th minute Puyol had a great chance but he only got a slight touch on Messi’s corner which left him beating the post in frustration. However, a couple of minutes later Fabregas was fouled just outside the area on the left, Xavi swung in the cross and Piqué escaped from his marker to head home from close in.

Zaragoza did manage a brief moment of danger but Postiga’s shot hit Piqué but there followed a period of intense pressure on the Zaragoza goal but we couldn’t make it count. First Cuenca sent in Messi but he failed to flick the ball past Roberto and then when Messi recovered the rebound he could only find the side-netting despite another darting run. A minute later Messi forced another save from Roberto, Cesc was blocked as he tried to force in the rebound and then the ball broke to Alexis who was denied by yet another Roberto save. As we piled on the pressure Alexis combined well with Messi who was blocked after beating two defenders and when the ball broke Maxell fired in a bullet that was beaten away by Roberto. As half time approached Roberto saved again from Alexis after a classy Fabregas flick, but eventually our insistence paid off just before the break, Cuenca played the ball to Cesc who sent a smart pass into Messi who went past Lanzaro with ease before firing right-footed across Roberto into the far corner.

Javier Aguirre brought on Lafita and Ruben Micael at half time  but the second half began with another save from Roberto, probably his best of the game, to prevent Fabregas converting Messi’s excellent assist. We did then see a brief spell from Zaragoza with Lafita having a shot blocked by Keita and soon after it was Lafita again who managed a shot after a good run past Piqué and Maxwell. However, this brief spell soon ended and Barça were soon further ahead. Zaragoza failed to clear a free kick and as play continued Fabregas spotted Keita’s run and chipped the ball into the far post, Keita rose above Paredes to head the ball down for Puyol who forced the ball home from the ground after Roberto had stopped his first effort.

Guardiola brought on Iniesta and Thiago and if anything our dominance increased in the last half an hour. Iniesta came agonisingly close to a goal but his poke rolled just wide after another great assist from Messi but it was our third substitute, David Villa, who added to the score heading in at the far post after Cuenca had beaten his man and crossed from the right. The assist seemed to lift Cuenca who finished the game very well showing one moment of skill to skip away from two opponents. It was a shame that Cuenca couldn’t cap his performance with a goal when he fired over in injury time after another burst into the area from Messi.

This was probably the sort of game we all expected and I should insist that Zaragoza were pretty poor. In is nice to know we can win so easily without anybody playing particularly well and I have the feeling that if Messi had really had his night we might have scored eight tonight. The finishing wasn’t great but it was encouraging to see players like Cuenca and Maxwell doing such a competent job which stresses that we do have strength in depth. it was also great to see our centre back pairing of Puyol and Piqué both getting on the score sheet. We need both these players back to their best as soon as possible as we will no doubt be put under more pressure by other teams. On Wednesday we face Milan and Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the Champions League, I’m sure it’s one we all want to win whether we need the victory or not. Zlatan’s probably done us a favour by winding us up with his comments in his book but we will need our defence at its best to keep him quiet. Finally a mention for Victor Valdés who despite having practically nothing to do all night has now completed ten straight clean sheets in La Liga at Camp Nou.

Barça: Valdés 7; Alves 6.5, Puyol 6.5, Piqué 7, Maxwell 7; Xavi 7 (Thiago m56, 6.5), Keita 6.5, Fabregas 7 (Villa m67, 6.5); Cuenca 7, Messi 7.5, Alexis 6.5 (Iniesta m56, 7.5).

Goals: m18 Piqué 1-0, m43 Messi 2-0, m54 Puyol 3-0, m75 Villa 4-0.

Barça yellow cards: m61 Piqué, m88 Alves

Attendance: 66,692

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7 Responses to Barça 4 Zaragoza 0

  1. bc9jaCulé says:

    Quite a good game considering the highly tasking international break they just returned from. Wait, both Puyol and Piqué on the scoresheet?! Last I checked, we won every competition we contested in when they both got on the scoresheet during the 2–6 rout at the Bernabeu in Pep’s first season and I sincerely see this as a good omen again.
    Go win ’em all again guys.

    Visca Barça!!!
    Força Barça!!!

  2. blaugranaboy says:

    i’m gonna go the other way a bit. considering the usually very sleepy performances we put in post-international break and with a vast majority of the team traveling halfway around the world barely 5 days before this game, i think this was quite a commendable performance. there were passages of really nice interplay but what i enjoyed most was the energy level. we were trying to be incisive, running at the defenders, and looking for the ball over the top. messi in particular i thought put in a great shift, 1st half in particular. he was chasing down defenders and then showing some great ability on the ball while blocking off challenges and threading a few really neat little through balls. puyol and pique back together is encouraging and i like to see maxwell having a good game. so all in all, i think its a really solid preparation for ac milan.

    personally, i feel pretty confident about the game wednesday. puyol is likely to shift right and i think that will do us just fine. im confident we will own possession and trouble them a lot.

  3. barcacentralnic says:

    Just wondering who will play against Milan. with Alves out there seems to be a pretty good case for playing a 3-4-3. How about a lineup like this-


    What would your starting XI be?

  4. barcacentralroger says:

    Just disappointed that Unai Emery didn’t have a little more guts and play with two strikers… Madrid were coming off the back of an international break… good game but bah!

    Regarding the line-up for Wednesday, it could go as you propose, but I have a feeling that Pep for such a big game Pep may respond with a more conservative option and play Puyol at right back (at the expense of Cesc). After that I would expect that everyone being fit enough (Cuenca for the under-match-fit but over international-played Alexis?), the line-up to be as you suggest.

  5. blaugranaboy says:

    im with roger here, despite feeling we can dictate the tempo and control our usual share of possession in milan, i think a three back would be just slightly overzealous. a back 4 of puyol, pique, masch, and abidal looks plenty fine to me. seeing as andres is out now, the rest im a bit torn. i would be happy with both xavi, busquets, thiago – messi, cesc, and villa or dropping cesc back for thiago and brining in alexis. id go with my first line up as alexi’s form and fitness isnt great and will be a much better impact player than say thiago. i dont see this asa game for cuenca, i know hes done quite well in general, but for me this game is bigger than his quality.

    i have a sneaky feeling keita will find himself starting though wednesday night.

  6. Pingback: Preview: Zaragoza vs FC Barcelona | barçacentral

  7. Pingback: Preview: FC Barcelona vs Zaragoza (game 12 liga 2012/13) | barçacentral

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