Bucharest was the venue for the last of FC Barcelona’s five preseason friendlies. The series has ended with three wins, 2-1 in Hamburg, 8-0 against Raja ClubAthletic and 2-0 at Dinamo, and two draws, 2-2 in Paris and 0-0 with Manchester United. Good results and positive feelings, with the team displaying many of the virtues that have brought so much success in recent years, dominating the possession and generating constant pressure.
As ever, the most important thing about these matches was simply giving the players the chance to get back into the routine of playing football. The first two matches involved a large presence of reserves, who rose to the occasion in exceptional style. It was not until game three against PSG that the Spain internationals were involved and Tito Vilanova could field a side that resembles what will be his first eleven for the forthcoming season. Parc des Princes also marked the return to action of Carles Puyol after an absence through injury.
The last stage of the preseason also saw Jordi Alba, the club’s new signing, make his first appearances in a Barça shirt in the mini-tour of Sweden and Romania, while the second of those two games, in Bucharest, also saw the long-awaited returns of both DavidVilla and Andreu Fontàs, who have been sidelined for several months.
Messi sets new record
LeoMessi was the top Barça scorer in the preseason with five goals. That’s the Argentinian’s best tally ever, and that was despite missing the first game with a minor injury. Dani Alves, Deulofeu and Alexis all hit the target twice.
Alves was also the player who got the most minutes of playing time (303). He was followed by Sergi Roberto (291), who was very active in midfield, Mascherano (285), Alexis (276) and Bartra (273). The centre back has been one of the revelations of the preseason, displaying security, elegance and the ability to bring the ball out of defence with remarkable effectiveness.
Muniesa, the worst news
The returns of Puyol, Villa and Fontàs have been the high point of the preseason, but the worst news was the serious injury suffered by Marc Muniesa. The defender tore cruciate ligaments in his right knee in Hamburg and will now be out for about six months.