In the blistering Texas heat, Barcelona and Juventus played out a dramatic 2-2 draw in pre-season.
Here are some things you may have missed.
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1. Ousmane Dembélé the best of the BVB Boys
Barcelona started the game against Juventus with a front three of former Borussia Dortmund players and team-mates. Robert Lewandowski and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang played one season together under Jurgen Klopp back in 2013/14 then later Aubameyang played one season with Ousmane Dembélé under Thomas Tuchel in 2016/17.
Tonight they all started together and, as a trio… it didn’t really work. Lewandowski is the kind of striker who needs movement off the ball around him to thrive and Dembélé prefers to move on the ball, while Aubameyang is no longer the young man he was when he proved to be Lewy’s foil back in 2013/14.
However while Auba looked out of place and Lewandowski needed more service (his movement was excellent as he continues to adapt to his new side but he was only given the service to have one shot at goal), Ousmane Dembélé decided to take the game over. After Raphinha’s heroics thus far on tour in the USA, Dembélé must have been feeling a bit put out, and he took that frustration out on Juve.
The funny thing is, for the most part he didn’t really play well. His movement was poor, his touch was inconsistent and his delivery aimless. But on the two occasions when he started running at Juve, he scored both of Barcelona’s goals with unreal solo efforts.
Twice he took the ball and then just slalomed in and out of Juve defenders, making a mockery of Juan Cuadrado and Alex Sandro before thundering low shots beyond the despairing dive of Wojciech Szczesny.
Dembélé is a player capable of this kind of magic and having him as an alternative to the more consistent Raphinha makes the Blaugrana so much more frightening than they were last season, though next time maybe don’t start all the BVB boys together!
2. Di(bala) Maria?
When Juventus signed Angel Di Maria everyone assumed he’d play wide and hoik in crosses for Dusan Vlahovic, and he may still do that, but against Barcelona we saw a different kind of Di Maria, someone who took up the role of his compatriot and former Juve star, Paulo Dybala.
That is to say, Di Maria played as a no. 10 behind Moise Kean. The Argentine was constantly floating between the lines, picking off the spaces Sergio Busquets wasn’t marking, and causing Barcelona all sorts of problems with his passing and probing.
In fact when Di Maria did shift into a wide position, his influence (beyond the defensive) vanished from the game until he was subbed off. But when he was in that central role he looked absolutely deadly, and that should be something Juve explore.
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3. Barcelona’s Wrong-backs
Barcelona started the game against Juve with Sergi Roberto at right-back, and he was terrible. Bar one bit of pressing, he did nothing good and got caught out repeatedly on the defensive end. This coupled with a knock to his achilles saw Xavi take him off in the first-half and replace him with Sergino Dest.
However Dest did little to make his home nation proud. The first Juve goal was only possible because Dest was in no man’s land, neither tucked in with the rest of his defence, nor spaced out wide to mark a Juan Cuadrado as he fizzed a low cross in for Moise Kean to score.
The second Juve goal saw a loose ball bouncing just outside the Barcelona area following a great Frenkie de Jong interception. Denis Zakaria picked up the ball and, seeing the run of Manuel Locatelli, played a little pass through to the Italian who slid it back for Kean to score.
If Dest had just held the same defensive line as his partners then Zakaria wouldn’t have had a pass on and Barcelona could have pressed him to take the ball back. However because Dest panicked a chased Locatelli, the Italian stayed onside and Juve bagged themselves an equaliser. Even Frenkie de Jong, a midfielder, knew to hold the offside line and even throw your hand up!
Barcelona are linked with moves for Jules Koundé and Cesar Azpilicueta, both of whom can play right-back. And based on tonight’s performance from both players who featured, you can understand why.
4. Bremer set for superstardom
Bremer left the field early in the second-half but for the time he was on the field he was far and away Juve’s best defender. The Brazilian joined the club from local rivals Torino in the wake of Matthijs de Ligt’s departure to Bayern Munich, and most people’s reaction was “huh? Who’s he?”
And while it’s early days yet, the signs seem to indicate that Bremer could develop into the kind of superstar centre-back that Juve would love to build their team around. He was everywhere against Barcelona, constantly popping up to put himself between Barcelona and his own goal. Both of the Blaugrana’s strikes came as they managed to shoot before they had to contend with the brilliant Bremer.
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5. Shakira City Limits for Piqué
When every Piqué touch was booed during El Clásico in Las Vegas, one could put it down to the largely partisan Real Madrid crowd. However when a happy, pro-Barca crowd like the one in Dallas also booed and jeered every Piqué touch, not to mention vocally chanting “Shakira!” at him.
One can only conclude that Piqué’s much publicised break-up with long-time partner and pop star sensation Shakira has upset enough people that they’re happy to unleash hell on him even if they’re Barcelona fans. Does this carry over into La Liga and create and awkward atmosphere around the Camp Nou for a player who was already going to struggle for minutes?
Piqué’s last season in the Camp Nou could be his most uncomfortable, for a multitude of reasons.