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After beating Scottish champions Celtic in Dublin, Barça completed a British double on Wednesday night by defeating English champs Leicester City in the Swedish capital. And they did so with a performance, especially in the first half when most of the first teamers were on the field, that shows that the Blaugrana machine has lost absolutely none of its cutting edge.
Luis Enrique named just two Barça B players, Marlon and Cámara, in his starting line-up, while Claudio Ranieri opted for what was more or less a first-choice eleven. As expected, Barça governed the play from the first minute, while Leicester defended intensely and looked for chances on the counter-attack – both teams staying faithful to the contrasting styles that led them to their respective national titles last season.
It all amounted to considerably more entertaining fare than the typical pre-season friendly, although the deadlock was not broken until the 26th minute. Denis Suárez supplied Leo Messi, and the Argentinian’s through ball was met nicely by Munir, who slotted the ball home to make it 1-0 to the Catalans.
The goal got Barça buzzing, and eight minutes later their many fans inside the Friends Arena had another one to celebrate. Pegged against the goal-line, Luis Suárez powered his way through two tackles from Huth and Chilwell and then poked the ball home.
With better finishing up front, Leicester might have had a goal or two of their own, but instead Barça were in total command. And they squeezed in a third goal just before the break. A dazzling assist from Luis Suárez supplied Munir, who pinged a perfectly timed strike past Zieler.
That was his second of the night, but although a Barça win looked as good as secure with 45 minutes still to play, the English side had not had their final say.
Foxes bite back
Busquets and Mascherano were the only new faces at the start of a second half that saw Leicester immediately pull one back when Ahmed Musa charged all the way from the halfway line to beat Masip and make it 3-1.
The Nigerian gave many signals of being a very astute signing indeed from CSKA. The lightning-quick striker was one of the standout performers in Leicester’s post-break recovery, and it was he who rammed home the Foxes’ second on 66 minutes.
Unperturbed by the turn in events, Luis Enrique made wholesale changes as the second half progressed. By the 75 minute mark, the B team players had become the majority. A Leicester equaliser was not out of the question, but any danger of that was silenced on 84 minutes when Rafa Mújica fired home in impressively confident fashion to make it 4-2 to the Catalans.
All told, the fans in Stockholm had been treated to an engaging evening of football, and the win comes as another boost for the players’ morale as the start of the competitive season draws closer.
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