On paper, Barcelona’s win over Inter on Tuesday in the UEFA Champions League was largely was unexpected. It was a dead rubber game for Barcelona, who had left Lionel Messi at home. Luis Suarez was on the bench, a lot of the first-team players were on the bench.
Ernesto Valverde’s men had some youngsters playing. The sort of youngsters that a Barcelona fan would want to start regularly. It was a chance for them to shine against a top side that was looking to achieve qualification into the next round.
Antonio Conte did start with their first-team. But Barcelona had Jean-Clair Todibo start at centre-back. Carles Perez and Carles Alena started too. Moussa Wague got a start at right wing-back, with Ivan Rakitic also making a start in midfield. Frenkie de Jong was on the bench, with Arturo Vidal also starting.
It was also an unnatural shape for Barcelona, who usually line up in either a 4-3-3 or a 4-4-2. And it was a teenager who buried Inter’s hopes of going through- Ansu Fati, the club’s new sensation. More than the experienced regulars, the youngsters came with a point to show that they deserve to play more than they do.
After the win, Valverde told reporters (via DailyMail): “We’re thrilled because Inter are a really demanding rival. We played to win and my players, many of whom were making a debut of some kind, responded by showing competitive mettle.”
It was Carles Alena who was the most impressive. Despite Fati getting the goal, it was Alena who was probably the best player on the day. He completed three dribbles, winning one tackle and interception each. With an exceptional passing percentage of 85% for a midfielder, he also came up with four key passes in the game.
He was constantly looking to carry the ball into the final third, helping out Griezmann and Perez in attack and add an extra man forward. He was thoroughly successful in that regard.
It was a clear sign that he isn’t a player who deserves to play only three games in all competitions this season.
Perez did pick up some impressive positions upfront and did score, but was waved offside. He had one key pass to his name, completing one dribble. He had an impressive passing percentage of 92% as well.
Last season’s winter signing Todibo though, showed exactly why top clubs wanted him during his time at Toulouse. The Frenchman won eight tackles in the game- three more than anyone else. He had a 100% accuracy in that regard too. He won three aerial duels as well. No one could dribble past him or dispossess him.
Wague was also good on the right side. The defender completed two dribbles, winning four tackles. He made one interception, making three clearances. It was a very sound defensive performance, as Cristiano Biraghi could dribble past him only once. That too in the first five minutes.
It was the Senegalese’s third appearance of the season. And it was a very solid one.
It was a reminder of how much talent the Barcelona side has. When they go on searching for transfer targets, they should keep in mind that they have a bunch of very good youngsters who can step up to the plate. If they can’t play him too much this season, these players should be sent on loan deals so that they can get regular first-team football elsewhere. They will very much deserve it.