Tactical Insights

Barcelona show they are alive and kicking at just the right time

Coming out of the international break, you never know what you’re going to get.

This break was especially important with a date in the Champions League quarter-finals awaiting Barcelona around the corner.

Xavi and his team have had plenty of rest of late, due to a light game schedule, and now they’ll have a full ten days of rest before heading to Paris.

What we’ve seen of late is that the manager and his loyal band of players are making practice count. It’s not so much that the tactics are different, but the energy and collective confidence is on another level. They look free, and they look like they’re having fun.

FC Barcelona v UD Las Palmas - LaLiga EA Sports

Photo by Pedro Salado/Getty Images

And going into a high pressure European knockout round, that’s exactly the attitude you want to see.

Levity. It’s no big deal. You’ve been there before.

Just play, and trust your teammates, all of whom, in spite of the injuries to key players, have proven that they can compete at the top level.

Special recognition, at this point in time, should really be given to Raphinha.

When we talk about playing with intensity, not thinking, and just going for it, the Brazilian is really setting the example of late. And to think, he’s doing it from a side of the field that is not his most natural, to accommodate a promising, but inexperienced, 16-year-old.

FC Barcelona v UD Las Palmas - LaLiga EA Sports

Photo by Pedro Salado/Getty Images

For a while now, the forward line was the part of the team that was holding the team back, and where the biggest questions remained.

I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that the dominating defensive performances are coinciding with the increase in quality from the front line.

Barcelona is pressing more effectively high up the field, and overall, getting better work rate from the forwards and attacking midfielders.

Joao Felix had an incredible assist coming off the bench to give his team the go ahead goal. But using him as a substitute really was the right move. It motivates him by creating a sense of urgency that he really needs in order to shine.

FC Barcelona v UD Las Palmas - LaLiga EA Sports

Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Raphinha and Lamine Yamal are a dynamic tandem. And all this time we thought they were direct rivals on the right flank.

Sergi Roberto and Fermin Lopez deserve credit too. Fermin continues to be a workhorse, which seems to be his bread and butter, and Roberto is following suit. I think the captain is finding that the best way to combat the criticism he receives is to put his head down and show some fight.

All of that takes away pressure from the defenders, who I believe are finally being put in a position to succeed.

It doesn’t hurt that Marc-Andre ter Stegen is back leading the line. The German radiates confidence, never rattled. Even when things aren’t going the team’s way, he isn’t afraid to speak up and demand accountability.

FC Barcelona v UD Las Palmas - LaLiga EA Sports

Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

And what does it all add up to?

A Barcelona team that is ready to compete in the Champions League again, and ready to hold Real Madrid’s feet to the fire in the La Liga title race.

April is going to be an exciting month.

Considering how disappointing, and consequential, the results were at the start of the year, it’s a joy to see Xavi still around (in spite of the suspensions), and with the energy and drive to lead his team into the final battles of the season.

Back to the training ground now where the magic is made.

Whatever it is they’re doing there, don’t stop.

Time to show PSG and Real Madrid that Barcelona aren’t backing down.

They’re coming for the throne.

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