Barça continued an underwhelming preseason tonight with a 2-1 defeat to Paulo Sousa’s Fiorentina in Florence. Luis Enrique’s men were stunned by two early goals from striker Italian Federico Bernadeschi in the home side’s first two attacks of the game. Luis Suárez pulled a goal back after 17 minutes to put Barça in contention again, but despite several chances the Catalans couldn’t find an equalizer in the remainder of the game.
For the first three minutes Barça looked confident and competent, the line-up was about as strong as could be expected until Messi, Neymar, Mascherano, Alves and Bravo return to action in next Wednesday’s Gamper against Roma. Then in the fourth minute Fiorentina came forward for the first time, Borja Valero nutmegged Sergi Busquets and flighted in a cross from the right which was met by Bernadeschi with a glancing header past Ter Stegen.
Barça pushed for a quick reply. Rakitic played a neat dummy before latching on to Piqué’s return but then shot straight at the Rumanian keeper Ciprian Tatarusanu. A couple of minutes later Iniesta chipped a pass forward to Rakitic who chested the ball down but just let it run away from him.
It seemed that Barça would soon put the scoreline right but then Fiorentina scored again in their next attack in the 12th minute. Ex-Betis and Valencia winger Joaquin dribbled past Jordi Alba and crossed low for Bernadeschi to side-foot past Ter Stegen at the keeper’s near post.
Suárez headed over from Rakitic’s chip forward but soon afterwards the two combined superbly to pull a goal back. The Croatian midfielder’s volleyed pass fell perfectly into the Uruguayan’s path and he held off ex-Villarreal defender Gonzalo Rodriguez’s challenge to slip the ball past Tatarusanu.
Barça had various chances to draw level before half-time. Pedro sliced wide from ten yards and also saw two efforts stopped by Tatarusanu, one after an excellent dribble in from the left. Alba headed over from Sergi Roberto’s cross and Suárez mishit his shot after Pedro’s assist. There was a fair appeal for a penalty when Gonzalo handled Sergi Roberto’s cross but Barça’s preseason luck continued to be poor. There was very little seen from Fiorentina in this period but just before the half time whistle Ter Stegen was fortunate after rushing out of his area to see Bernardeschi’s effort clip his foot and go narrowly wide.
Munir replaced Iniesta at half-time which meant Rafinha moved back into midfield while Fiorentina brought on ex-Villarreal striker Giuseppe Rossi and ex-Atletico Madrid midfielder Mario Suárez. Rossi volleyed over in the 53rd minute but generally Barça continued to create more chances. Munir forced Tatarusano into a good save with a near-post diving header from Sergi Roberto’s cross, Rafinha’s run and shot brought another stop from the keeper, then in the 63rd minute Busquets sent Suárez into the area but although his shot was good Tatarusano made another good stop and Pedro following-up for the rebound saw his effort blocked by a defender.
Both coaches made two more substitutions in the 64th minute with Luis Enrique putting on Bartra for Rakitic (Bartra moved to right-back with Sergi Roberto moving into midfield) and Sandro for Suárez. Without the Uruguayan Barça’s attack looked less dangerous though Munir nearly surprised Tatarusano with a shot whipped in from wide on the left, the keeper reacting splendidly to save by the near post.
Masip and Gumbau were the last subs on in the 78th minute but Barça were running out of ideas. Vermaelen’s glanced header from a corner went narrowly wide and in the final minutes Sandro fired a shot from the right straight at the keeper. A second Barça goal had seemed inevitable for a long time but in the end it never came.
Losing again to a decent side should not be of too much concern at this stage of the preseason though the number of goals conceded (eight in four games) is worrying especially after our solidness last season. The fact that we have five key players still to start a game offers hope that the victories will soon return when they do. Other key players such as Suárez, Rakitic and Piqué look in good form while Vermaelen shows promise and seems sure to improve with playing time. Sergi Roberto put in a decent performance as he continues to cover as right-back. Going forward his crossing looks good though it remains to be seen how well he will get on defending against a top-class left winger.
The most negative tonight was the performance of Rafinha who really needs to get more involved in these games if he wants to compete for a place this season. I should also say I’m slightly worried with Ter Stegen who despite always being capable of the brilliant, sometimes takes a risk too far which leaves a doubt about his solidness. All things considered the performances have been better than results and I’m still optimistic that we will make a good start to the season once the real action begins.
Fiorentina: Tatarusanu; Tomovic, Roncaglia (Bebic m74), Gonzalo Rodríguez, Pasqual (Bagadur m74); Badelj, Valero (Mario Suárez h/t); Joaquin (Marcus Alonso m64), Ilicic (Vecino m64), Bernardeschi; Babacar (Giuseppe Rossi h/t).
Barça: Ter Stegen (Masip m78); Sergi Roberto, Piqué, Vermaelen, Alba; Rakitic (Bartra m64), Busquets, Iniesta (Munir h/t); Rafinha (Gumbau m78), Luis Suárez (Sandro m64), Pedro.
Goals: m4 Bernardeschi 1-0, m12 Bernardeschi 2-0, m17 Suárez 2-1