7 things we learned from Barcelona’s first game without Lionel Messi

In the tenth minute of Barcelona’s opening day, action-packed 4-2 win over Real Sociedad on Sunday night, there was a heartfelt minute’s applause and chant for the recently departed Lionel Messi.

It was the first time in 17 years that the club didn’t have their best ever player among their ranks, and the mood heading into this new era was subdued, to say the least.

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But after 90 minutes of action, it’s safe to say that the mood has changed. Indeed, in the tenth minute of the second half, another round of ‘Messi! Messi!’ chants were soon drowned out by screams of ‘Barça! Barça!’.

Do you believe in life after Messi? Well, after their opening day triumph, Barça fans might just be feeling a little more cheerful about their chances.

Here’s what we learned from that 4-2 win.

First and foremost, let’s just appreciate this man’s stunning performance on the night – and, yes, you may joke that he used to play for Middlesbrough, but he was truly stunning.

Martin Braithwaite was phenomenal and could have just shown that he’s talismanic material. He’s already proven his work ethic in previous Barça showings, and continued that trend with relentless pressing that was key to maintaining an intensity advantage over Real Sociedad.

But the Dane’s performance was so much more than that. Intelligent movement allowed him to grab a well-taken brace and he demonstrated a coolness under pressure to assist Barça’s points sealing fourth.

He will never be Messi – obviously – but as long as he perform to the peak of his powers, he will be an integral component of this Blaugrana side.

Well, that’s the way to make your Barcelona debut, isn’t it?

Memphis Depay firmly demonstrated why Ronald Koeman was so keen to bring in the forward in what was a sensational showing in front of the Camp Nou faithful.

While Braithwaite converted the side’s play into goals, it was Depay who lit up the field with moments of magic, brilliant vision, unpredictable movement, fantastic flamboyance and a creative edge.

Sure, Memphis didn’t score, but an assist isn’t and standing ovation isn’t a bad start.

Eric Garcia

Eric Garcia had an impressive debut / Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Certainly regarded as a good central defender, Eric Garcia was always going to be welcomed with open arms to the club at which he started out.

But after seeing his performance against Real Sociedad, his return home could be a better bit of business than anyone really anticipated. Mobility was the key to Garcia’s impressive display, something Barça have sorely lacked in their backline.

As well as his evident dexterity in possession, the 20-year-old’s pace complimented Gerard Pique perfectly, covering his veteran colleague in behind.

Stifling the bright sparks of Real Sociedad’s rapid forwards – particularly Portu – Garcia dealt with counter attacks with assurance and without worry, a factor that will sure up what was a leaky defence at times throughout the 2020/21 season.

Frenkie De Jong

Frenkie De Jong was outstanding once again / Soccrates Images/Getty Images

It’s been a bit of a while since Barcelona’s midfield has been gob-smackingly good.

But the trio of Sergio Busquets, Pedri and Frenkie de Jong have once more shown just how talented and coherent unit they are with a dominating performance against La Real.

Last season brought about the blossoming rapport between the three following Pedri’s surprise rise to prominence but, having now established himself as one of the continent’s best midfielders, the 18-year-old’s presence alongside the consistently wonderful De Jong and Busquets make La Blaugrana look frighteningly stacked.

There may be issues elsewhere on the pitch, but there is now an established world class unit operating in midfield.

Pedri

Pedri continues to amaze the footballing world / Soccrates Images/Getty Images

73 – 70-bloody-3?! – appearances for club and country last season, refuses a holiday before resuming duties for Barcelona, starts on the opening day, and is still one of the standout performers on the pitch with a typically fluid, silky and impactful showing.

Seriously, Pedri is built different.

Neto Murara

Neto had reason to fear late on / Soccrates Images/Getty Images

For all the promising, exciting and goal-creating football Barcelona played during their 4-2 win on Sunday night, there was yet another late scare.

In the space of three minutes, Koeman’s side went from cruising with an unassailable 3-0 lead to biting their fingernails at 3-2 – thanks in part to the brilliance of Mikel Oyarzabal.

Fortunately, La Blaugrana demonstrated the composure that seasoned professionals should have and made sure of the win with a fourth goal on the counter.

Comebacks were an issue for Barça in La Liga last season, and clearly it’s a problem that still needs to be addressed.

Gerard Pique

The Barcelona fans were given a feat for the eyes by their players / Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Despite the near comeback and the absence of their GOAT, one can safely assume that Barça fans left Camp Nou feeling more optimistic than when they arrived on Sunday night.

A fluid, creative and impressive performance will have seen to that, and the reluctance to repeat their stadium-wide tribute to Messi – a visible acceptance that it’s time to move on from that glory-soaked era – in the second period can only bode well for the future.

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Author: XenBet

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