Football Features

Why Barcelona’s 2-0 win over Getafe suggests their season might be defined by Ter Stegen and Suarez

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 17:26, 28 September 2019

After a sunny afternoon of football, Barcelona beat Getafe 0-2 at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez.

The match was hotly contested under the blazing Madrid sunshine, but in the end Barcelona did enough at the sharp ends of the pitch to secure a massive victory, their first away win of the season, as they look to really kick-start their season.

Barcelona’s midfield had become a problem position for the Blaugrana last season, but the addition of Frenkie de Jong to the side has returned that unit to being the Blaugrana’s strongest. The team was now able to move the ball through the middle of the field with the finesse of old, and they’ve also shown the capability to control games that will only increase as they play more together.

But at the sharp ends of the pitch the Blaugrana had not addressed their issues. In defence their attempts to sign Matthijs de Ligt failed, and so they persisted with Clement Lenglet, even though, as good of a defender as he is, he isn’t the ideal compliment to Gerard Piqué (and Jean-Clair Todibo, who is, has yet to be blooded). This has left them susceptible to being cut open by opponents, meaning Marc-André Ter Stegen has so often had to step up and bail them out.

Now, a goalkeeper making saves is hardly cause for concern. That’s what they’re there to do. But Ter Stegen has been called upon an absurd number of times so far this season. His miracle performance against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League earned the Blaugrana their only clean sheet of the season so far and against Getafe, he was at it again.

The German has always excelled at one-v-one situations, but when Ángel was played in for a rasping left-footed drive Ter Stegen spread himself to superbly stop the Spaniard. That wasn’t his only save but it was his best one. However, for once, it wasn’t also his best moment in the game.

With five minutes left in the half, Getafe played a long ball behind the defence for Ángel, but Ter Stegen spotted the danger and stepped forward bravely. Ángel had the Barcelona defence beaten in a footrace, but five yards outside his area the German chested the ball down, moving past the Getafe player into space. From here, he could have laid the ball off squarely to Gerard Piqué, but instead he took one look downfield and launched a phenomenal long-range pass with his (weaker!) left-foot.

This miracle ball was perfectly weighted and flighted. It was so sweetly timed and balanced that it felt like he’d drawn the arc on a tablet screen and transposed it to real life. The true genius of the pass was that it put the largely immobile Luis Suárez in behind the Getafe defence, and the Uruguayan saw David Soria rush out to greet him.

Now, had the Getafe keeper stayed on his line, then perhaps the chance would have gone begging. But his tempestuous attempt to mirror Ter Stegen’s genius just shows the quality that the German possesses. Because where he judged his interception perfectly, Soria was caught in no man’s land, allowing an out-of-form Suárez to chip him for the goal.

An assist for Ter Stegen, an enormous assist (the first for a Barcelona goalkeeper in La Liga this century) that confirms his status as the best German goalkeeper in the world. Uli Hoeness can make all the childish threats he wants to. Nothing he can say will make Manuel Neuer turn back time to when he too was a superhuman sweeper keeper capable of intimidating opponents with and without the ball. Ter Stegen is the main man now. Accept it, Uli. Your life will be better when you do.

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But back to today: Ter Stegen’s assist brought a goal for Suárez (!), which was equally as important for Barcelona because they have so often struggled this season at other sharp end of the pitch. Suárez’s decline has been largely responsible for the Blaugrana’s Champions League failures (he’s scored just once in each of the last two seasons in Europe, and his last goal away from home was four years ago in September 2015!) and has been a problem in La Liga, too.

Leo Messi and Ousmane Dembélé (and Ansu Fati this season) have helped cover for this weaknesses but none of them were available to play Getafe and who knows if they’ll make Inter in the Champions League in three days time. This left Barcelona essentially having to play Suárez, even though the Uruguayan hasn’t played well since his cameo off the bench against Valencia two weeks ago.

Today, Suárez was his typical self for most of the match. He tried to out-run defenders and failed, his touch was often heavy (with brief moments of supreme technique) and in general he was just a frustrating figure. However unlike during the last three performances against Dortmund, Granada and Villarreal, Suárez found a way to score today.

Sure, it relied on a moment of magic from Ter Stegen and a goalkeeper misjudging the situation, but he still finished with good technique and confidence. And who knows what kind of a lift that goal will give him? Suárez is certainly in need of a big lift this season.

There’s little doubt Suárez doesn’t feature in Barcelona’s best front three this season (the potential of Leo Messi, Antoine Griezmann and Ansu Fati or Ousmane Dembélé as a trio is sensational), but he will be a massive part of Barcelona’s squad no matter what. In fact, given the tendency of coach Ernesto Valverde to rely on veterans, he is likely to start a lot as well.

The sooner Barcelona get Suárez back in a good rhythm in the final third, the sooner they can get back to winning consistently. Today’s victory marks the first time Barça have won back-to-back games this season and was their first away win since April. April.

It really is imperative the Uruguayan continues to hurt teams at the sharp end of the pitch, even when Ter Stegen isn’t producing miracle saves and assists at the other sharp end. If he can do that, the sky is the limit. If he can’t, Barcelona might bottom out.