FC Barcelona took a five-hour flight to Saudi Arabia to play in the Spanish Super Cup. Having won the competition last year, Xavi must be hoping that a win this year can rejuvenize the team and turn the season around. Their first semi-final test, Osasuna. Two halves later, Barça leave with a 2-0 victory and a chance for their first trophy of the season. You know the drill: Let's look at each player. How'd they all do?
Peña - 8/10: A welcome performance tonight after his recent strange run of form. He didn't have to make a ton of saves, but when he did he was effective. He smothered a close attempt from Osasuna and saved another very confidently. Didn't have any of his recent issues with command of the box, and kept a clean sheet. Good job at the back.
Balde - 7/10: The young left back is good for a good few moments every game where fans can sit back and be wowed. His physical output is very impressive for a youngster. He was solid in this one, keeping Osasuna wary of him out wide. However, the tactical setup doesn't seem to be optimal for him right now, and leaves me lacking a bit. There were moments he could've made runs in behind, but he's stuck out wide as Ferran drifts in.
Christensen - 7.5/10: The Danish center back is the very definition of dependable. He was good today, tidy at the back, and didn't do much of anything wrong. He was at times slow to respond to certain situations, as he is, but his positioning makes up for it generally. He also took advantage of the space afforded to him by Osasuna to drive the ball forward into enemy territory and look for passes.
Araújo - 7.5/10: Araújo shows time and again his value to that defensive line. As Koundé and Balde push up, and without a presence like Busquets in the side, his pace and power are invaluable. He stopped transition opportunities for Osasuna more than once and has also evolved into a great leader and passer out from the back. He, along with De Jong, will often try to find long passes to spice the play up a little.
Koundé - 8/10: For my money, Koundé is the perfect right back for a team like this. Physically imposing, he defended very well in this one. However, he also knows when to advance, and created a ton of danger down the right. He associates well with Raphinha and Yamal. He puts good crosses in. He nearly had a couple of assists tonight (if Barça could finish any chances).
Roberto - 7/10: There seemed to be just a bit of confusion on that right side tonight. Should Raphinha stay in Roberto stay wide, or vice versa? What about Koundé? Either way, Roberto was solid. Good on the ball, not committing many mistakes, and leading the press. He was quite visibly instructing Raphinha and Lewandowski on how to press, which was good to see from their captain.
De Jong - 7.5/10: Frenkie and Gundogan play a very aesthetically pleasing game. In theory, Frenkie played as a single pivot, but that's rarely the case. Regardless, he seemed to have stepped up his defensive effort recently. There were a good few times he was in the box, heading away a cross. On the ball, clever as always, and not afraid to drive it forward himself.
Gundogan - 8/10: The German was quite possibly Barça's best player tonight. Besides the good decision to pass to Lewandowski for his goal, he also controlled the midfield very well. His passing is always good, as he had another great pass for Koundé early on. His experience is very evident. I thought he and Frenkie actually did quite a good job at building out from the back.
Pedri - 7/10: I'm not a fan of playing Pedri in a match where you're already 1-0 up, with him having just come back from injury. I think caution should be at the forefront of Barça's plan for him, but alas. He did play, and play well. Of course, Pedri moves out there in such a fluid way. His dribbling and passing just looks so natural. He showed a good level, but didn't do too much of consequence tonight.
Ferran - 7/10: Ferran seems to be in a bit of a limbo out there when Lewandowski and Balde are also playing. He seems torn between staying inside and staying wide, and he doesn't find much service in that left half-space. He did also make a good few runs in behind that just weren't found by his teammates today.
Raphinha - 6/10: Something about the Brazilian's game is lacking, to me. While I've defended him many times (in a pragmatic sense, he is very effective for them), he's a bit of a one-trick pony. Well, two tricks, I suppose. He either runs in behind or cuts in on his left foot. It's predictable. He also tends to drift in, which would be fine if Ferran was more out wide. This also leaves Koundé pretty isolated out wide.
Lewandowski - 7/10: Robert was good in this one, and not just because he scored a goal. He hasn't been doing too much recently, which is good since he doesn't lose nearly as many balls. His cut inside was good on the goal, as well as his positioning throughout (although Ferran got in his way at times). However, he did miss a very clear chance in the first half when he really should've scored, and a few of his passes were... questionable at best.
Yamal - 8/10: Very nice today from him. He continues to show that he deserves his spot out there, and again, it's not just because he scored. He is a natural dribbler, and his passing and crossing is very good. He is willing to take risks when sometimes the rest of the team is stagnant. He combined well with Koundé, and created danger with him more than once. His goal was also nice; a simple pass into the back of the net. Calm and collected.
Félix - 8/10: This was one Félix's better performances of late. He was lively, dangerous, and nimble out there. He had a good shot on goal that forced a great save, and nutmegged the defender on the way to assisting Yamal's goal. He was dangerous in transition as well as the game opened up late on. This is the kind of Félix Xavi needs more often.
All in all, a good enough performance from Xavi's side in this one. A solid win that saw them through to the final of the Spanish Super Cup. While not as cohesive a win as fans would've liked, and plenty of room still for improvement, it's a welcome result nonetheless. Next up - Sunday against Real Madrid. Can Barça win their first title this season?