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Luis Enrique got off to a winning start in his first Champions League campaign as manager of Barça. The game with APOEL produced plenty of talking points, and we’ve picked out five of the most prominent here:
1. Brave Luis Enrique
The manager opted for no fewer than nine changes with respect to the team that beat Bilbao at the weekend. Only Messi and Munir ‘survived’ from Saturday. Luis Enrique also handed Ter Stegen and Samper first team debuts, and also fielded five other players that hadn’t stared a match yet this season (Bartra, Adriano, Xavi, Sergi Roberto and Neymar Jr).
2. Set piece goal
Barça have created danger in all kinds of ways this season. There have been balls won in the opposition’s half, lighting quick combinations and direct plays through the middle. And Messi and Neymar have frequently displayed the best of their talents. But what was lacking was a goal from a set piece. It finally came against APOEL. A Messi free kick found Piqué, who nodded home the only goal of the night.
3. More passes than ever
Barça played a very direct kind of football against Villarreal and Bilbao, but tonight they were back to the patient waiting game. With Samper, Xavi and Sergi Roberto in the side, they completed 856 passes, 26 more than against Elche (830) and even more than they made against Villarreal (768) and Athletic Club (723). The man who made the most passes tonight? Debutant Samper.
4. Ter Stegen does his job
The fifth new signing of 2014/15 was also the fifth to debut, with Vermaelen and Luis Suárez still to come. The German had a quiet first night at the Camp Nou, but was applauded for what he did do. APOEL didn’t actually find the target until injury time, when Ter Stegen produced a fine save. That’s four straight clean sheets for Barça this season.
5. Messi and Munir untouchable
Messi and Munir are the omnly players that have started all four official dixtures played so far this season after Jordi Alba and Busqueta were both dropped for tomnight’s game and Bravo, Mathieu and Rakitic all watched from the bench without coming on. Messi is the only player who has featured in all 90 minutes of every game so far.
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