No Iniesta, no Jordi Alba, no Alexis, no Dani Alves, no Messi, no Mascherano (though the two Argentinians played a portion of the second half). The first three were unavailable and the latter three only trained twice with the team before this weekend’s Liga match. Games after international breaks have always proved complicated for FC Barcelona, and the fact that Barça had to face Getafe at the Coliseum added an extra dose of caution to the players’ psyche.
Tito Vilanova, who wasn’t allowed to manage the team from the bench due to suspension, said after the match that he named “the freshest players” to Barça’s starting line-up, which meant Messi, Dani Alves, and Mascherano didn’t get the nod to play from the get go, and Montoya, Cesc, Thiago, Tello and Puyol did. Vilanova’s plan – set in motion by assistant coach Jorge Roura – worked. Both Adriano and Montoya overwhelmed Getafe’s wide defenders with the assistance of Pedro and Tello; Cesc, Thiago and Xavi – all of whom alternated their runs into the Getafe area – kept Getafe’s defence in a state of disarray; and the tried and true Piqué-Puyol duo didn’t disappoint at the back. All in all, Tito’s game plan was too much for a Getafe side that defeated Real Madrid just weeks ago.
Xavi, who completed 93.1% of his 101 attempted passes, organised his fellow midfielders around him like bumpers in a pinball machine as he made sure the ball bounced around the Coliseum’s pitch at a furious pace. In fact, the Catalan was voted man of the match by Barça fans after the game (this may change as voting is still open). With the 1-4 scoreline secured after the 90 minutes of play, Xavi said: “I feel great, fresh. Thiago played a brilliant game, as did Cesc. Busquets gave us that equilibrium from the back ... We all played at a high level. It’s hard to do well here, so we should be proud of how we played.”
It was good to see Thiago back on the pitch after months of recovering from an injury that kept him away from the London Olympic Games and the start of Barça’s season. The youngster was the perfect compliment to Xavi’s methodical style of play. Filling in for the injured Iniesta, Thiago added a certain level of depth to Barça’s midfield with incisive runs and crisp one-time passes – 96.8% of which were completed.
It wasn’t an easy international break for Cesc as there were rumblings in the media about the player’s performances with his Club. He was named to the starting line-up by Vilanova and was tasked with playing the ‘false 9’ role for most of the game (until Messi came on in the second half). The Catalan rose to the challenge and played his part beautifully. Adriano opened up the scoring at the Coliseum thanks to a brilliant run from the Catalan and later, in the second half, Cesc’s through ball was brought down by Villa and slotted into the back of Moyá’s goal for Barça’s fourth. Two assists in 90+ minutes. In addition to his two assists, Cesc paired up well with Thiago and Xavi in the first half and settled in perfectly for Thiago when the youngster was subbed off for Messi in the second. The midfielder actively contributed to the team’s dominating display of possession football (67.1%) over Getafe.
Six goals in four La Liga games. Messi played a rough-and-tumble World Cup qualifier against Peru on Wednesday, but he only needed 31 minutes to grab two more goals for his personal La Liga goal tally this evening. The Argentine was subbed in for Thiago on 59 minutes and quickly put the game beyond Getafe’s reach by beating Moyá twice in four minutes. The first was from the penalty spot after Pedro was tripped in the area, and the second was scored after a deflected cross from Montoya.