There’s not always a need for Neymar or Lionel Messi to be on the pitch for Barcelona to be at their best. Alexis Sanchez in the best form of his career and generally playing like they couldn’t wait for the Christmas break to be over is enough to put on one of the most impressive performances from Barcelona this season.
Facing Elche helped as well, as the team that hovers just above the relegation zone. Barcelona won 4-0, not allowing a single shot that actually made Victor Valdes touch the ball, and applied their famous pressure that denied Elche from actually maintaining possession in Barca’s own half for most of the match.
Vintage Barcelona? Something close to that. There was a false nine, although this time instead of Cesc Fabregas we saw Pedro playing in the more central position, as if to show that Martino doesn’t need to think about him only when he’s missing a winger. Xavi and Andres Iniesta were at their finest, while Alex Song had a solid performance as a defensive midfielder, looking a lot more in sync with the rest of the team when it comes to pressing, defending and forward motion than he usually does.
There’s a cup match in the middle of the week but all eyes are directed at next weekend, and the match against Atletico Madrid for first place. Lionel Messi could have played against Elche, but he’ll probably get a few minutes against Getafe before Martino sends out all the big guns to play against Atletico at the Vicente Calderon. It won’t be too much of a surprise to see Barcelona play differently from their ‘classic’ style, and give us something that’s reminiscent of the tactical, physical battles we saw from both teams in the Supercoppa.
Neymar spent only nine minutes on the pitch, as Martino decided he’s not going to need his best players to beat Elche comfortably. He wasn’t very wrong. Barcelona did look like they’re waiting for the perfect shot instead of taking advantage of each opportunity they got to, but it’s hard to argue with four goals and the fantastic form Alexis Sanchez is currently in.
As for the style, this Barcelona team isn’t as predictable as before. They can still play what’s become known as the Tiki-Taka, but it’s no longer a surprise to see Barcelona playing with long balls and those diagonal crosses into the box, skipping their patient ball movement that earns them plenty of possession percentages, but less and less on the pitch, before Spain and Europe began adjusting.