Tackles, tantrums, yellow cards, penalty calls, injuries and last minute gasps are the few things used to sum up Saturday evening’s match at the Mini Estadi. Barcelona B missed the opportunity to taste first place for a few hours. An ending result of 1-1 doesn’t seem too exciting but one should never judge a book by its cover. This fixture had you screaming in frustration and joy, depending on the side you backed.
First things first, congratulations are in order. Chumi received a call-up to the first team squad for their match against table-topping Sevilla. The defender remained on the bench for the entirety of the match but being chosen to play for the first team, at only 19, is an achievement on its own and a step in the right direction.
With the exclusion of Chumi, there were two changes for Garcia Pimienta’s side. Oriol Busquets and Riqui Puig returned to the starting XI at the expense of Monchu and the defender respectively. The Blaugrana seemed to be playing a 4-3-3 formation with Busquets at centre-back and Mingueza occupying the left-back position for the third time this season. Throughout the game, the team adjusted to Villarreal’s multiple breaks in attack with several players switching positions. Sarsanedas, Mingueza and Busquets rotated between centre-half, left-back and centre-mid depending on the pressing of the opposition, man-marking of players and substitutions made by the coach. It’s safe to say that Barça B are beyond versatile and confident in their abilities.
The first half was not the best performance from the home side. Villarreal were very strong, persistent and rough in an attempt at an early lead in the game. Their advantage came at the half-hour mark; Captain Sarsanedas tugged on the shirt of the opposition inside the area. Ironically, Villarreal’s penalty was scored by former Barça B player ‘Quinti’. To add more sorrow to our first half downfall, McGuane was forced off before halftime with a suspected hamstring injury. A very unlucky fate for the English forward who’s been struggling to get into the squad this season.
The Yellow Submarine were pushing for more goals early into the second half, testing our scrambling defence and Iñaki Peña on multiple occasions; the shot-stopper proving why he is the first choice keeper at the moment. The referee deserves some questioning throughout the game. There were a number of fouls on our players in the area, blatantly ignored by the official. Aleña was visibly frustrated by the biased officiating, giving his two cents and receiving a yellow card in return. Soon Sarsanedas was forced off, looking to be dealing with some discomfort in his thigh. Six minutes were added at the end of regular time but with such a disorganised match, it only seemed right to grab an equaliser in the seventh added on a minute; Cuenca headed one home at the final second to help FCB into a draw, maintaining their current unbeaten streak.
This fixture was a massive challenge for the team, the biggest yet. Barça B dominated with possession but Villarreal B registered more shots on target. Iñaki Peña was tested the most during the game but continued to keep his composure. Riqui Puig, Aleña and Carles Perez were the standouts in this fixture. Riqui was being pushed around but the young midfielder was a huge threat in skills and long-range efforts. Aleña was a true fighter. He integrated all his emotions into his game and went till the last minute. Carles Perez was subbed in for McGuane and made an instant impact. FCB were attacking more from the right flank and Perez was no slouch with his dribbles and shots on target.
Moving our focus towards the first team and their current defensive injury situations with Samuel Umtiti and Thomas Vermaelen currently out of action, should Valverde call on B team defenders as a backup precaution? Pimienta spoke to VAVEL España on giving his defenders a chance:
“Chumi has a lot of experience within the club. He is quick, strong, good on the ball and in the air. Him, Cuenca and Mingueza are ready to make the jump to the first team”
Barça B have less of a defensive worry with Miranda back from international break as well as Araújo being eligible to play. Valverde has a chance to test out a few additions to the side as the first team have drawn Cultural Leonesa in the first round of the Copa del Rey. Going up against a team in the same division as the B team, is the perfect opportunity to play the young talents in a bigger competition. There is no doubt that all eyes have and will continue to be on the main boss in the coming weeks.