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FC Barcelona have got their preseason off to a winning start with a 3-1 defeat of fellow Catalan side Gimnàstic Tarragona in today’s friendly in front of an empty Estadi Johan Cruyff – which was being graced for the first time ever today by the senior team.
New manager Ronald Koeman’s first game in charge brought plenty of debuts and also the chance to welcome back players from loans and injury, and although this fixture was ‘just’ a warm-up and didn’t always have the intensity of a competitive fixture, the conclusions were very positive indeed.
Dembélé back and scoring
The Dutch coach, employing his favourite 4-2-3-1 system, had stated before the game that he’d be fielding different XIs in each half. He opted to begin with Neto, Alba, Piqué, Lenglet, Sergi Roberto, Aleñá, Sergio Busquets, Pedri, Dembélé, Messi and Griezmann.
Wearing the yellow and red ‘senyera’ kit on the day after the national day of Catalonia, things got off to the perfect start for the home side. Ousmane Dembélé, playing his first game since last November, nabbed a loose ball in the box and fired Barça ahead after just five minutes.
And ten minutes later, that lead was extended when Gerard Piqué was brought down in the area and Antoine Griezmann, wearing his new number 7 shirt, converted the spot kick.
The home side were outclassing their Division 2B guests, but Nàstic managed to make a game of it by pulling one back on the half hour. Javier Bonilla drove a shot home and it was 2-1.
Standout performances in the first half included a very active Carles Aleñá, fresh back from his loan spell at Betis, and a promising first 45 minutes in a Barça jersey for Pedri.
Enter Trincão and Konrad
As promised, it was a totally different team that came out after the break: Iñaki Peña, Semedo, Araujo, Junior, Cuenca, Coutinho, Riqui Puig, De Jong, Trincão, Braithwaite and Konrad.
A generally more youthful team than we had seen in the first half brought a first chance to see new signing Trincão in action, as well as 19-year-old Konrad de la Fuente becoming the first player from the US to debut with the senior team. And the two of them thoroughly impressed this evening, with the former Braga star twice showing extraordinary skill to set up the American teenager, with one of those chances finding the net but disallowed for offside.
Two players we look forward to seeing a lot more of this season.
The half had barely started when a cross from Nelson Semedo, wearing the captain’s armband, deflected off a defender’s arm and into the net. Somewhat peculiarly, a penalty was awarded rather than a goal, which was smoothly converted Philippe Coutinho, in his first game back from his Champions League winning loan spell at Bayern Munich.
Further goals looked likely but despite the constant pressure from Barça they were not forthcoming. But today was not a day where the result mattered too much. It was a day for blooding the new arrivals and getting them warmed up for things to come.
And on the strength of what we saw today, there are plenty of reasons to feel optimistic about the season ahead. There’s another friendly to come on Wednesday at 7.00pm CEST, against nother Catalan team, Girona, and you can watch that one live on Barça TV+ too.
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