Christensen the pivot
Xavi opted to play Andreas Christensen in midfield against Alaves, something that’s been brewing for a while now, and saw the Dane help Barcelona to a 3-1 win at Mendizorrotza Stadium.
Christensen enjoyed a decent game without truly standing out. He kept things simple, looked comfortable but – perhaps more importantly – allowed Ilkay Gundogan to play where Barca really need him.
Photo By Ricardo Larreina/Europa Press via Getty Images
All in all it was a decent audition from the Dane and it would be no surprise to see him deployed in midfield again this season, particularly given the team’s injury situation.
The position has been a problem even since Sergio Busquets departed last summer, with Oriol Romeu brought in on a free transfer to try and fill the hole left by the club legend.
That move simply hasn’t worked out, with Romeu expected to move on in the summer, and Barca said to be making the No. 6 position their top priority in the next transfer window.
Gundogan gets Barcelona & Lewandowski going
Ilkay Gundogan really got Barcelona going after another stodgy start against Alaves. A gorgeous through-ball woke Robert Lewandowski from his recent torpor and allowed Barcelona to take the lead.
The Poland international showed some great movement, took a touch and dinked the ball over the goalkeeper. It was a very well-taken goal and was classic Lewandowski – but owed a lot to Gundogan.
It’s worth noting that the assist was Gundogan’s ninth of the season, perhaps surprisingly his best tally in a single season, and we’re only just past the halfway point.
The German was also at it defensively too. He did brilliantly to race back into the penalty area and steal the ball away on 35 minutes to prevent a clear shot on goal.
And yet there was more to come too from the summer signing. He put Barca ahead brilliantly with a great finish at the far post for his fifth goal of the season for Xavi’s side.
The only bad news was the sight of Gundogan going off early with an injury. Yet Xavi said afterwards it was only a knock to his back which shouldn’t keep him out.
Welcome to La Liga, Vitor Roque
If Vitor Roque wanted to know what La Liga was all about then he learnt plenty on Saturday after a rollercoaster of a cameo by the Brazilian.
The January signing was brimming with confidence when he came on, after scoring last time out against Osasuna, and took little time to score his second for his new club.
It was a good finish too from Vitor Roque, but less than 10 minutes later he was heading for an early bath after receiving his second yellow card in a fairly scandalous decision.
Vitor Roque’s first booking was soft enough but it’s hard to know what the referee was thinking when he took out the yellow card out again for whatever he thought he saw.
It’s a brutal introduction to life in La Liga for Vitor Roque, particularly coming after two goals in two games for the January signing.
Barcelona announced immediately they’d be appealing the decision. They should win of course – but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will.