Two games, two wins and no goals conceded. The restarted La Liga has gone as well as it could have for Barcelona, but one of their stiffest tests awaits them this Friday night.
Although recent results at Sevilla’s Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan have been favourable to the Catalans, it nonetheless remains one of the more difficult away trips.
If the Blaugranes are able to successfully negotiate that hurdle, with Real Madrid potentially dropping points against Valencia or Real Sociedad either side of Barca’s fixture, it will go some way to determining the destination of the league trophyOne of the issues facing Quique Setien is whether he continues with rotation of his side, or whether he sticks to Barca’s tried and tested players.
With games coming thick and fast and the Catalans also having to face Athletic Club, Atletico Madrid and Villarreal in the not too distant future, Setien has a very delicate balancing act to undertake.
The next few games will make or break not just Barca’s season, but also his candidacy as the coach in the longer term.
Many was the time that a hard-to-please fan base were calling for his hire at the expense of Ernesto Valverde, but he hasn’t been the overwhelming success that most had expected.
Even against Leganes, the league’s bottom club, they toiled before ultimately taking the three points thanks to goals from Lionel Messi and Ansu Fati.
At just 17 years of age, Fati continues to make an impact when given the chance. He took his goal with aplomb and made enough of a positive contribution against the Madrid-based outfit to keep his starting place against the Andalusians.
Antoine Griezmann could do with some time out of the firing line, and Luis Suarez still isn’t 100 percent fit. Although Martin Braithwaite also has a stellar claim for the centre-forward spot, Barca need to get back to a certain way of working. One that they were lauded for, for many years.
Unfortunately, the promotion of La Masia talent to the first team has virtually dried up, but Fati’s consistent inclusion would give the new generation someone to look up to.
Ditto Riqui Puig, who was similarly excellent in his 20 minute cameo on Tuesday. Puig has blaugrana coursing through his veins, and his skill set is perfect for the way in which Setien wants to play.
Indeed, the coach identified just how well the youngster did when he came on against Leganes, and Puig was the game-changer on Setien’s debut back in January against Granada.
Playing the likes of Arturo Vidal or Ivan Rakitic, both of whom are rumoured to be leaving the club, ahead of Puig makes no sense to any forward-thinking individual.
The pressure to win is always going to be there, so why not give the future of the club their wings now?
They deserve a chance and if they don’t get it, there will be plenty of takers willing to offer them just that.