Barcelona’s first game back from the international break (thankfully no injuries this time!) was against Real Betis. The Catalans welcomed the Andalusian side to Montjuic with a few changes in the lineup. Xavi saw fit to switch to a 4-3-3 in this one. João Félix got his first start for the blaugrana, with Ferran Torres and João Cancelo also getting in the first XI.
The stadium sold out, Barça then proceeded to thrash them 5-0. They looked quick, sharp, and creative. Defensively, despite a few half-chances and one action that forced a great save from ter Stegen, Barça shut Betis down.
Overall, one of the best matches we’ve seen from Xavi’s side in recent memory, against a pretty good opponent, no less. Let’s take a look at the player performances today – spoiler alert, they’re mostly excellent.
Marc-André ter Stegen (c) – 8
Can’t give him any higher than an 8, simply because he didn’t have to do very much. Betis, apart from a few moments of danger, didn’t really pose a threat in this one. However, those few moments of danger were dealt with beautifully by the German. Lightning-fast reflexes on a point-blank save from Willian José, then another nice save of a curling shot from Betis. Overall, ter Stegen remains one of the very best goalkeepers in the world.
João Cancelo – 8.5
Absolute class in this one from the Portuguese right-back. He’s fit in seamlessly so far. From starting off wide, then inverting to help with build-up. He was able to retain the ball, as well as drive it forward with some very vertical dribbles. His passing and positioning were top-notch, as was his movement off the ball. When Raphinha came on in the second half, he was able to perfectly adjust his game so as not to step on the Brazilian’s toes. He even got himself a goal, and a nice one to boot, a low shot across the face of goal that skipped over the keeper’s gloves. Defensively, there were no issues whatsoever in this one. Solid, solid start in a Barcelona shirt from him, he seems to be unlocking a new element this team was sorely lacking.
Jules Koundé – 7.5
Another solid outing from Koundé in this one. The Frenchman is quickly solidifying himself as an absolute rock at the back. Good passing from the back, as always. He also always seems to know when to attack the ball and when to sag off a bit. When Ronald Araújo returns, it’s hard to see the pairing as anything less than the best center back duo in La Liga.
Andreas Christensen – 7
Christensen has been solid. Doing exactly what he needs to do at all times, being in the right place at the right time. Nothing flashy, good in the air, good ball circulation, and good at ball retention. You’ll rarely see him make a mistake, even if he doesn’t flash on the pitch.
Alejandro Balde – 7
Balde was as wide as ever, and as advanced as I’ve seen in the last few matches. With the midfield dominating today, his positioning was higher up the pitch than even Cancelo. Balde is a speed demon and strong off the ball, but he still needs a bit of work when it comes to being on it. Sometimes he loses possession too easily or rashly, and his final pass needs a bit of work. When those things sharpen up, he’ll easily be among the best full backs in the world.
Marcos Alonso – 6
Came on in the 76th minute for Balde. Didn’t do much in this one, but was good. He did pull off a beautiful cross in to Gündoğan for what would’ve been the sixth, but it was sadly a hair too far from the German’s boot.
Iñigo Martínez – 6
Came on in the 76th minute for Christensen. Martínez is a reliable, experienced defender, and you can expect dependability from him. Barcelona signed him for just that reason, and he had a few savvy interceptions and recoveries. He also looked good in the air. Didn’t have quite that much to do, but looked good doing it.
Oriol Romeu – 7
What we’ve come to expect from Romeu seems to be quite consistent from him. Great ability to break up play, recover possession, and not too shabby on the ball either. His positioning is always good, and he doesn’t get too out of place on the pitch. Good performance by him in this one.
Frenkie de Jong – 7
One of Frenkie’s quieter games, but by no means a bad one. He was oftentimes the link between Romeu, Félix, and Balde, and expertly managed the play on the left side. Didn’t drive the ball as much in this one, but he didn’t have to – there were spaces to pass into and players to find open. Good job from him.
Gavi – 8
No matter what anyone says, Gavi is an absolutely vital part of this team. On defense, he is, of course, a pitbull. Never afraid to get in there and break up play – he and Romeu bossed the midfield in this one. Isco barely got a touch on the ball. But on offense, Gavi is severely underrated. He can maintain possession, pop into half-spaces, and he’s got some serious quality when linking up. He can also occasionally get into the box, although he didn’t have to in this match. Apart from Pedri, Gavi may be the most important midfielder on this squad.
Gündoğan – 7
Came on in the 64th minute for Romeu. Once again, he was quite good. He’s definitely a veteran, meaning he picks his spots on where and when to go all out. He is a master at retaining possession, which he showed off in his short time on the pitch.
João Félix – 9
Honestly, a tremendous performance from Félix tonight. He showed great tenacity for his goal, not giving up on the ball and slotting home from a pretty tough angle. He dummied a pass that faked out the defense for Lewandowski’s goal, which really showed his quality. He also was a threat on the break, when he could run at defenders and make choices with the ball. But above all, he worked very well with Frenkie, Gavi, and Balde, and provided support for Lewandowski. It seems Robert won’t be as isolated up top anymore.
Robert Lewandowski – 7.5
Better from him in this one than he’s been to start the season, for sure. The goal was a very nice left-footed finish. He also almost scored a beautiful backheel in the second half. The support he received in this one worked wonders, because he wasn’t forced to drop back nearly as much. This may be the way forward for Barcelona.
Ferran Torres – 8
Ferran has had a complete mentality shift. His confidence is all the way back now. In this one he became the first Barcelona player to score a free kick since Lionel Messi, and it was a beauty – curling around the wall and bouncing in. He also held the width well, allowing for Cancelo to invert in. He also passed the ball back to Félix for a good shot on goal, which was a good decision. Very good game for Ferran tonight. Perhaps not quite in a flashy way, besides the goal, but important nonetheless.
Raphinha – 7.5
Came on in the 64th minute for Ferran. Pressure? What pressure? Amidst uncertainty about his role in the club with the arrival of Lamine Yamal, Raphinha reminded us all he still has a cannon for a left leg. A powerful goal from outside the box from him made it 4-0, and he almost scored again not long after.
Lamine Yamal – 7
Yamal came on for Félix in the 64th, and played on the left, which was an interesting wrinkle from Xavi. You could tell he didn’t look too comfortable there, as he kept hesitating to come onto his right foot, but he was still good. He linked up especially well with Gündoğan, which was nice to see.