Barcelona continued their unbeaten run in Champions League home games, which now stretches to 29 matching Bayern Munich’s record. The match ended 1-1 with goals from Dembélé and Lucas Moura. Meanwhile, the draw helped Tottenham progress to the Round of 16.
Formation and Lineups
It was widely expected that Ernesto Valverde would rotate his squad with the inclusion of Barça B players, and that was indeed the case. Jasper Cillessen started in goal with a back-line of Lenglet, Vermaelen, Semedo and the young Barça B left-back Juan Miranda. Rakitic started in midfield yet again alongside Aleñá and Arthur. In attack, Dembélé and Coutinho started on the wings with Munir getting a rare start in the middle.
Tottenham started with a 4-1-3-2 formation with the dangerous Harry Kane upfront with Son-Hueng-Min.
Barcelona controlled the ball in the early minutes and opened the scoring in the 8th minute, thanks to a brilliant solo goal from Ousmane Dembélé. The goal was all about Dembélé, as he stole the ball in the midfield and breezed past Kyle Walker-Peters, turned Harry Winks inside the box and calmly finishing with his left foot past the keeper.
A few minutes later, Coutinho tried his luck from a distance with a dipping strike which Lloris could save easily. A couple of minutes later, Tottenham got their first yellow card as Juan Miranda was dragged down by Walker-Peters after a nice turnover from the young left-back.
The first dangerous chance for the visitors came at the half hour mark, when Danny Rose sent a good low ball inside the area, but the pass was just out of reach of Heung-min Son. Eriksen won a free-kick immediately outside the box after a poor challenge from Vermaelen, but Harry Kane could only strike it against the wall. The chances continued as two minutes later, Eriksen played Son through, but the South Korean couldn’t equalise, courtesy a great save from Cillessen. The Dutch goalkeeper made himself big, cut down the angle and made a great stop with his outstretched left leg.
After the chances that Barça created in the opening minutes, they were largely pinned back deep, but they displayed defensive solidarity. Barça almost got their second goal in the dying minutes of the first half. First, Rakitic’s long range shot was easily saved by Lloris and moments later, Coutinho weaved his way through the defenders to take a shot, but was denied by the far post with Lloris beaten.
Tottenham started the second half strongly, constantly putting pressure on the Barça back line. Eriksen had the first shot on goal in the second half, after Kane cushioned the ball in his path. However his shot from 20 yards, could not beat Cillessen as he made yet another crucial save. Barça’s chances were very limited in the opening minutes, but one of them showcased Dembélé’s pace. His extraordinary pace glided away from the Spurs defenders and teed up Coutinho on the edge of the box. But his shot on goal was blocked by some desperate defending from Walker-Peters.
Barcelona appeard to have doubled their lead after an excellent finish by Munir, but he was correctly ruled offside. It was Munir’s last contribution as he was replaced by Messi around the hour mark. But it was Tottenham to be the aggressor as they continued to be livelier, but couldn’t find a way to beat Cillessen . Lucas Moura was the latest to be frustrated by the Dutch goalkeeper, as his header was met with a brilliant goal-line save.
Coutinho had the best chance of the second half for Barça, as his curling shot struck the post after his trademark run from the left wing. Finally, Tottenham found the equaliser after Kane sent in a low cross across the box to find Lucas Moura, who stuck his boot out to beat Cillessen. It was the last notable action and the game ended in a 1-1 draw with both Barça and Tottenham progressing to the next round.
- Juan Miranda’s rawness and ability
Juan Miranda was one of the Barça B players who impressed in the pre-season. It was probably one of the reason, there was no left-back signed as Digne’s replacement and the reason Cucurella was sent on loan to Eibar. However his chances this season has been limited in the first team.
Though he lacks the pace of Alba, he showed signs of good anticipation and good distribution skills. However he still looks raw and misplaced quite a few passes. It’s understandable considering his age and lack of experience. He should be given more chances to develop and eventually compete for the left-back spot with Cucurella.
- Dembélé had a point to prove
It was pretty evident from the start that Dembélé was fired up. It looked like he had a point to prove, as it was evident in his goal celebrations. The constant media reports about his lifestyle, turning up late for training and his fit at Barça might have stirred him up. He was pressing high up, going for the loose balls and was aggressive with and without the ball. His goal was pure individual brilliance. He needs to continue to put his head down and keep working.
- Coutinho’s Waning Impact
It’s been a strange season for Philippe Coutinho. After his move from Liverpool in the last winter, he still managed to grab 8 goals and 5 assists in 18 la liga games. However this season, he’s managed to score just 4 goals and 1 assist. The worrying sign is not just about the lack of goals, but his waning impact. His runs seem to have become predictable and there isn’t much link-up play with Suarez/Messi. There is no denying Coutinho’s talent and ability, as it was proved by the $100+ million dollar transfer fee.
It’s time Coutinho gets back to his brilliant best with the business end of the season approaching.
¡Visca el Barça!
- He made some brilliant saves, though his ball distribution was a little off sometimes.
- He was partly at fault for the second goal, as he was dragged out of position. Also gave away a cheap foul in the first half near the penalty box.
- He looked solid and was the leader of the defense in Pique’s absence.
- His understanding with Dembélé is getting better each match. His decision making is getting better, but there are areas still to improve upon.
- Had a good champions league debut. He still looks raw, but has great potential.
- He made a bright start but faded away towards the end of second half.
- Played in Busquets role, had a solid match. Taken off at half-time.
- He was not at his best after coming back from injury. He found it hard to control the midfield.
- He hit the post twice, but apart from that had very little influence on the attack.
- His goal was ruled out for offside correctly. Probably his only contribution in the match. Was subbed off for Messi.
Dembélé – 8/10
- Impressive in the first half and scored a brilliant solo goal. His work ethic and attitude were great. Went off the boil in the second half.