Will Barcelona finally get back in shape?

Will Barcelona finally get back in shape?

On Saturday in LaLiga, Barcelona defeated Mallorca 1-0 in a match that was much more competitive than the Catalan club might have anticipated. The lone goal was scored by Robert Lewandowski, who has now scored in six of the league’s seven games. 

With the victory, the Blaugrana go into first place on the standings, one point ahead of Real Madrid, who still have a game remaining. On Sunday, Los Blancos will play Osasuna in an attempt to pass Barcelona.

Once more, Lewandowski’s talent was the deciding factor as Barcelona maintained their perfect start to the LaLiga season. With his leadership and work ethic, the Polish striker has changed the culture at Barcelona, but it is his ability to score goals that has made a huge difference for Xavi Hernandez’s team. The ideal instance was his goal against Mallorca. When he received a pass from Ansu Fati in the 20th minute, there seemed to be little going on, but he cut back to beat his defender before firing a low, arrowed effort into the bottom corner.

Lewandowski’s goal made him the player to score nine goals in LaLiga in the 21st century most quickly, doing so in only seven appearances. In just nine games, he has twelve in all competitions. 

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Lewandowski’s flankers of choice are typically Raphinha and Ousmane Dembele, but Xavi gave Ansu his first league start of the year at Mallorca. Although the 19-year-old is still obviously getting used to being healthy again after a serious injury, his chemistry with Lewandowski is encouraging. The two have now combined for three goals in the league this season, more than any other duo, after assisting on the goal here in the first half.

Before the World Cup, Barca had a challenging stretch of 12 matches in LaLiga and the Champions League. The trip to Mallorca marked the beginning of this stretch. Jules Kounde and Ronald Araujo, two regulars in his back four, both sustained injuries over the course of the international break, and this week, summer signing Hector Bellerin was also added to the list of injured players. Xavi would have been devastated. 

Therefore, if Xavi wants to keep out players like Romelu Lukaku and Vinicius Junior with a doubleheader against Inter Milan in Europe and a trip to play Real Madrid in LaLiga coming up before Oct. 16, he must find defensive alternatives.

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He made the unexpected choice to start left-back Alejandro Balde, who is only 18 years old, at right-back against Mallorca, which provided a first indication of what Xavi might be considering before the match on Tuesday in Milan. Both Jordi Alba and Gerard Pique returned to the lineup after losing their spots earlier this year. 

In the next five weeks, Barca will play a lot of games, making Marcos Alonso, Eric Garcia, and converted midfielder Sergi Roberto likely to see plenty of playing time. Andreas Christensen completed the back four.

When everything is said and done, Mallorca will draw a lot of positives from their tight loss to Barcelona, just as they did after losing to Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu last month. 

Javier Aguirre, a Mexican coach who took over and kept them in the game on the final day of the previous season, has created a club that is tough to beat, especially at home. Barca, who has scored three goals or more in each of their last five league games, did not generate as much as they would have liked if not for Lewandowski’s stunning goal.

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Mallorca went beyond just defense. They made their own opportunities, and if it weren’t for Marc-Andre ter Stegen, they might have gotten a draw. The German goalkeeper improved his previous best record for the team by stopping shots from Jaume Costa and Antonio Sanchez to preserve the scoreless streak going above 500 minutes. 

Mallorca continued to exert pressure even in stoppage time, but Barca narrowly avoided defeat when Lee Kang-late In’s goal-bound shot fizzed across the goal and wide.

Author: Bobby Parker