Viktoria Plzen 0 – 4 FC Barcelona – Champions League Match ReviewBy: Natasha | November 2nd, 2011
First, a few interesting facts and figures (yes, I realise this probably isnât new information for any of us, but theyâre worth celebrating!). This was Guardiolaâs 200th match as coach, with 500 goals scored under his management. Valdes set a new record of 877 minutes without conceding a goal and subsequently, this was the 9th consecutive match with a clean sheet. Messi scored goal number 200âŠthen 201âŠthen 202âŠresulting in the first time heâs scored two hattricks in a row. Alexis made his Champions League debut. And for the sentimental ones, today was also the first time that Cesc, Messi and PiquĂ© started a match since their Cadete days. Adorable!
Did I miss anything out? I hope not…however, on with the review!
As you may remember from the last match against Plzen, it wasnât too good. There were so many misses I lost count after the first ten and overall, it was a very frustrating match. I donât know if BarĂ§a learned from their mistakes from that match, but whatever they did this time âround worked, and worked very well that. Guardiola sent out a starting XI of VV â Alves, PiquĂ©, Puyol, Abidal â Busquets, Thiago, FĂ bregas â Cuenca, Messi, Adriano. Not exactly the strongest midfield and attack, but this was compensated with the strong backline and was arguably the first choice defence during the first few months of the 10/11 season. Alves also started the match on a yellow card, so another yellow would result in him missing the next match against Milan at the San Siro. If you know Dani, youâd know that this was more of a âwhenâ than an âifâ.
Villa didnât even make the bench but apparently heâd experienced some discomfort earlier in the week, which ruled him out of the match. Best to be safe than sorry, I guess. No FontĂ s on the bench either, and sadly that doesnât surprise me. The FontĂ s saga is one for another day, though. I was slightly worried that both Xavi and Iniesta were starting on the bench, but thankfully nothing disastrous happened without themâŠquite the opposite, infact!
Plzen did look threatening during the first 15 minutes or so and looked quite impressive on the counter attack, but their efforts werenât rewarded. There was quite a bit of pressure on the defence and this would have been worrying had BarĂ§a been playing with a makeshift backline (or 3 defenders!) but Puyol and PiquĂ© had things under control. Plzen did come close to a wide-open goal in the 16th minute but as always, VV was there to make one of his trademark saves from a one on one situation. There was a clear penalty call in the 13th minute for a foul on FĂ bregas, but it wasnât awarded, nor was the offending player carded. So it you could say it was karma that a penalty was awarded only 8 minutes later for yet another foul from a Plzen player, and one that resulted in a red card for Cisovsky.Â Messi stepped up to take the penalty (and wasnât attacked with laser pens, for once!), scoring his first goal of three.
Messiâs second goal came in the dying minutes of the first half and was a result of a great 1-2 with Adriano, ending the first half on a positive note. Thankfully, the second half continued where it left off. As I mentioned earlier, Dani was one yellow away from a suspension, which he erm, managed to achieve. Dani collects yellow cards like Messi collects hattricks. Iâm not too worried about him missing the Milan match, as their draw against BATE has certainly helped us outâŠoh, and because we have that well known right back, Jonathan Dos Santos, to fill in for himâŠalright, maybe not. But Adriano will likely move back from attack to defence due to Alexis finally returning from injury.
Cuenca made a wonderful pass into the box, which was neatly headed into the net by FĂ bregas, complete with enough hair gel to drown a small animal and topped off with a headband. Iâm not even going to comment on the hair situationâŠif we pretend it doesnât exist, will it go away on its own accord?
But enough about that, shall we talk about Cuenca for a moment? Heâs doing great. And for whatever reason, unlike Bojan last year, I havenât heard anyone mention, âheâs only 20!â because wellâŠhe is. However, I think Pep has brought him into the first team at the right time and heâs showing heâs talented enough to deserve a place within the first team. Iâd be surprised if he wasnât promoted next season, but it does depend on how well he performs for the rest of this one.
Plzen were much slower in the second half and on the rare chance they did win the ball, their counter attacks were stopped before they made it even halfway into BarĂ§aâs half. There was a half-hearted chance in the mid 80th minute from Plzen, but stopped by VV who came storming off his line to play what appears to be his favourite position: sweeper keeper. This is probably blatant bias, but I havenât seen another goalkeeper whoâs as strong as he is in one on one situations. Messiâs third and final goal of the evening came from a perfect backheel pass from PiquĂ© (well, he didnât exactly have much to do in defence), resulting in his second hattrick in three days and his 202nd goal!Â I donât think I need to say it, but Messi was fantastic last night. His past few games couldnât have come at a better time and with a bit of luck, itâll silence the critics who took great joy in declaring that he was in âcrisisââŠwell, for a week or so anyway.
VV â 10. Another clean sheet and another perfect performance. Iâll go out on a limb and say heâs not a just a âgoodâ goalkeeper, heâs certainly the best in Spain and possibly Europe.Â You canât deny his stats â they speak for themselves.
Alves â 6. Could have done without that yellow card, but such is life. He was good, but not as good as he can be, and I didnât think he contributed as much to the attack as he usually does. Perhaps last weekendâs goal has taken it out of him? Who knows!
PiquĂ© â 7. Wonderful backheel assist to Messi. He had a few misplaced passes in the first half but heâs been out for a few weeks so you have to allow some room for error. Either that or he was confused with Plzen wearing red and blue. But he dealt with their attacks well and itâs great to see him and Puyol back at CB together again.
Puyol â 6. We didnât see much of him, which is a good thing for a defender. His work rate is still outstanding for someone who was out for the majority of last season. Even after 80 minutes when the match was inevitably won, he was still tracking back and defending even the slightest threat from Plzen.
Abidal â 7. Back in his usual LB position and excellent as usual. His pace was key to stopping some Plzen counter attacks and fortunately, he was just too fast for them.
Busquets â 7. Pretty quiet last night too, but as Ade once said, thatâs what you want from a DM. His passing was spot on as always and he won back the ball on numerous occasions.
Thiago â 8. Had a very close shot at goal in the 67th minute but unfortunately hit the crossbar. He did well, even without Xavi and Iniesta alongside him, and was everywhere on the pitch. I thought there was less passing but more dribbling from him, which can be risky, but he pulled it off because, put simply, heâs talented enough to do it.
FĂ bregas â 6. I thought he was pretty quiet last night too, apart from his goal, of course. Then again, heâs another whoâs only recently back from injury so he probably needs some more minutes under his belt before weâll see him return to his excellent form from a couple of months ago.
Cuenca â 7. Wonderful assist from him which will only increase his confidence. Itâs nice to see a young player come in to replace one of our starters (in this case, Pedro) and prove that heâs worthy of being called up to the first team.
Messi â 9. MOTM. Iâd say he could have easily had another goal (at least) but a lot of his runs into the box were effectively dealt with by the Plzen defence. However, you canât complain with a hattrick. I still think it would be good to rest him for one match but heâs regained his form before he ever really lost it, so itâs perhaps not as necessary anymore.
Adriano â 5. I donât think he contributed a whole lot playing as a forward and is definitely better suited to a fullback position, as was proved when Alexis came on and Adriano returned to his familiar RB role. He did provide an assist for Messi, but Iâd put that more down to luck because he didnât move nearly enough for me during the match.
Maxwell (for Alves) â Probably should have been subbed on earlier and Iâd have liked to have seen him come on for the start of the second half, before Dani received his yellow card, but such is the way of Pep.
Keita (for Busquets) â Finished what Busquets started and was his usual strong self.
Alexis (for Abidal) â Wonderful to have him back and good that he was subbed on as he needs to regain his match fitness. Hopefully heâll start this weekend and will be fully fit for Milan.
So, job done and we are through to the knockout stages, where things start to get interesting. Iâm hoping weâll finish top of the CL group, but the result depends on how things end at Milan on the next match dayâŠuntil then, though, lets enjoy this victory and look to this weekendâs Liga match against Bilbao. See you then!