The Blaugrana could only master one point as they were forced to a goalless draw by Borussia Dortmund.
European club football finally graced football fans with its most prestigious annual offering – the UEFA Champions League. And the very first day of the Europe’s flagship tournament began with a tasty fixture when Spanish giants FC Barcelona travelled to the Signul Iduna Park to take on German powerhouse Borussia Dortmund.
Barcelona were lucky to get away with a point as their away Champions League dismal form still continues. Here are the talking points from the game on Tuesday night.
5. Should Valverde have started with Ansu Fati on the left?
The 16-year-old is primarily a left winger who loves to use his right foot to come inside or take the full-back on. Against Dortmund, he was deployed on the right flank for much of the first half which limited his ability to exploit space. This might have been too much of an ask for a teenager who is still getting used to first-team football and he looked out of wits in that region.
Valverde then shifted him to his usual left wing position around the 35th minute mark where he clearly looked more comfortable and even threatened Achraf Hakimi on a couple of occasions.
4. Should Dortmund have focused on more central overload?
Borussia Dortmund tried to use pace and panache on the wings in the final third in order to inflict damage. And while that strategy has worked for them extensively in the Bundesliga, it also became predictable after a point and Barcelona dealt with it by exercising the mobility of their full-backs and not letting them push too high.
3. Does Suarez deserve to be starting away Champions League games for Barcelona?
The answer is clear. And has been that way for at least a season now. Suarez hasn’t scored in an away Champions League fixture for Barcelona in four years with his last goal coming against Roma in November 2015. That is an outrageous statistic and what is even worse is the fact that it’s not just goals.
Luis Suarez is anonymous on the pitch and does not contribute enough. He tucks himself between the centre-backs and rarely combines with the midfield anymore. He has become slow and his touch is heavy. He does not press the opposition defence and has become a liability for Barcelona in attack. They could’ve instead done better with someone like Carles Perez who would provide width on the flanks as a natural winger and with Griezmann operating through the centre.
2. Was it right to bring on Ivan Rakitic in place of Busquets in the second half?
In the second half, Dortmund started on the stronger foot and put a lot of pressure on the opposition. Valverde made two changes around the 60th minute mark and brought on Messi and Rakitic in place of Fati and Busquets.
The arrival of Rakitic distorted the natural shape Arthur and Frenkie had on the pitch with Busquets and had to compensate that with Frenkie having to drop deeper.
1. Why does Barcelona look static at times?
Barcelona’s approach to the biggest Champions League games has genuinely been an enigma and hard to make sense of. The team is perfectly capable of playing a proactive game of football by pressing high and moving the ball quickly through midfield. The recent additions of Griezmann and Frenkie de Jong has only made it easier to make that possible and yet, Valverde’s side chooses not to.
It does not press high and instead, contents with the opposition playing out from the back. Doing this, even when Barcelona win possession back, the defensive structure of their opposition is still intact and two lines of 4 do not allow the midfielders to pass quickly between the lines.
In the attacking third, especially now that Suarez has entered the scene, the forwards are static and prefer to occupy specific positions instead of interchanging positions and moving freely. This approach has never worked for them and yet, the side keeps resorting to that hopelessly.