Messi is not from this planet
When people think back to goals Messi has scored during his time at Barcelona, most will remember mazy runs where he’s left countless people for dead before putting the opposing goalkeeper out of his misery. Yet arguably just as special is his ability to create something out of nothing and punish a side before they have time to adjust. Messi’s thought process is on another level to his peers.
Barcelona’s first goal came as he feigned a pass out wide to Jordi Alba but actually played it inside to Luis Suarez. Without thinking he continues his run and takes the ball back from Suarez before drilling it beyond Gianluigi Buffon into the far corner. This was the first time he’s scored against the Italian, by the way. Unstoppable. Spectacular.
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The second goal was all about him and his movement too. Angry at receiving a yellow card for waving an imaginary one in the referee’s face, Messi responded in the only way he knows how. Charging down the right he evaded a couple of challenges before squaring it across goal. This time a defender got back to clear it off the line but Ivan Rakitic put in the rebound.
The third saw him shift the ball to his left before arrowing it across Buffon and leaving him stranded. At times all you can do is stand and applaud.
Despite the result, plenty of positives for Juventus
It’s sometimes difficult to see a heavy defeat as anything other than demoralising. Juventus are a team who not only beat teams but usually put them to the sword. On the surface this result isn’t great but the performance, especially in the first half, shows Juventus will be tough opponents in the latter stages of the competition – assuming they make it.
Juventus have a fair amount of new faces in their line-up so teething problems are normal. Miralem Pjanic and Blaise Matuidi were impressive in the middle. The duo managed to break up early Barcelona attacks, frustrating the home side. Douglas Costa, too, was lively in the first half. His pace and trickery meant Juventus were constant threats on the counter. This was even more crucial as Gonzalo Higuain failed to get a foothold in the game.
It’s impossible for a side not to miss the influence of someone as important as Leonardo Bonucci but overall the defence coped well, even when clearly second best in the contest. There’s no shame in losing a game due to the magic of Messi and really, he was the difference maker. Maybe if Juventus’ attack had a bit more bite, they wouldn’t have been penned so far back.
Dembele might become a superstar but Semedo is Barça’s best signing
When Barcelona knew Dani Alves wasn’t going to stay at the club and signed for Juventus, it made sense to replace him properly. The controversial Brazilian might not care how people judge him or his believe motives for leaving but he was crucial to Barcelona’s attack. So when Sergi Roberto, the club’s swiss army knife, was ushered into the role plenty started to scratch their heads.
Roberto is anything but a bad player. Quite the opposite, he’s one of the most underrated squad members on Barcelona’s books. However he isn’t a right back and he certainly isn’t at the level of Alves. But in Nelson Semedo, Barcelona might actually be able to stretch teams on both sides of the pitch again.
Semedo arrived to practically no fanfare. He came in before the Neymar-Coutinho-Dembele saga but is perhaps the most important addition. It was an area Barcelona were weak in. Well, until Neymar left of course. Yet the Portuguese full-back has settled almost immediately. A driving force down the right-hand side his pace allows him to get back and recover if an attack breaks down. He isn’t quite Alves level yet, but than most aren’t or ever will be, but he’s a bloody good right-back.
Was Dybala even playing?
Every summer it feels like Paolo Dybala is going to move away from Juventus for silly money. In Barcelona’s late desperation it was said they even asked about the young Argentine’s situation. This was futile after he took the famous number 10 shirt and committed his future to the Turin club.
Yet in the big Champions League matches he goes missing. If Juventus are to be more than simply the bridesmaid but never the bride, they need Dybala to take control. No one is doubting his talent or potential but someone who carries a €100m+ price tag needs to be the star attraction, not invisible.
Until he manages to avoid doing that, maybe he isn’t quite ready to leave Turin.
Barça’s best XI but with a questionable bench
Barcelona lined up with their ideal XI against Juventus for the first team this season. Ivan Rakitic and Andres Iniesta have benefited from the extra competition in midfield but remain worthy starters. Semedo is their best option at right back and long-term Ousmane Dembele should line up alongside Messi and Suarez. The XI itself looked fantastic but the bench? Less so.
Cillessen, Mascherano, Denis, Paulinho, Gomes, Deulofeu and Roberto. It’s a decent bench, without the absent Paco Alcacer, but it lacks a genuine game-changer. If Juventus had scored first and Barcelona were chasing the game, who would’ve come on and made an impact? There’s a concern that squad depth could be Barcelona’s undoing, as it was last year.
If they manage to avoid injuries to key players than it wouldn’t surprise me to see them dip into the transfer market again in January. The concern with doing business in that month is most teams are reluctant to lose their star players and those available maybe aren’t much better than what they’ve already got. Fingers crossed Messi stays fit then?