FC Barcelona – Tito Vilanova Can’t Rely on Lionel Messi as his Only Deep Threat

The Clasico balance of power shifted, just a little bit, towards Barcelona after their 3-2 win in the first leg of the Spanish Supercopa, although the difficulty to score goals during their best moments of the match is a warning sign to Tito Vilanova that last season’s problems are still with his players.

After all, this match was a lot closer to a 4-1 win than a 3-2. The two goals Barcelona conceded were avoidable. Cristiano Ronaldo’s opener doesn’t suggest some fundamental problem. Simply an elite player managing to beat his marker off a corner kick. Not something you can prevent at 100% of the cases. The second goal was simply  bad decisions – Once by Adriano, who put Valdes in an uncomfortable situation and then again by Valdes himself, making a poor stop of the pass and failing to clear the ball when he could.

But what should be a bit more worrying to Vilanova and his staff weren’t the two conceded goals. Barcelona should have a better, more solid defense this season, as long as the injuries don’t come back to bite them at some point. Javier Mascherano is getting better and better as a centre back and Gerard Pique probably won’t have the problems he had with Guardiola last season. The scoring in big matches is what should be worrying.

Three goals against Real Madrid is plenty, but the numbers don’t always tell what happened, especially in football. Barcelona were in complete control at the stage when Cristiano Ronaldo scored for Real Madrid, going against everything that was happening on the pitch. Ronaldo himself touched the ball four times during the first half, and Real barely made it into their opponents half.

Barcelona, especially against Real Madrid or that kind of caliber of team (few are, lets say Chelsea from last season), need to score during their good stretches. Not having an actual deep threat inside the box hurts you at times, despite Spain’s fantastic performance in the Euro 2012 final. Italy were caught off guard, forgetting that what gave them such a successful group stage match was their ultra-defensive tactics.

It’s not that Barcelona don’t know how to bust a bunker, but there are matches when Pedro and Alexis need to forget about the wings. With Dani Alves roaming the right side and pretty soon Jordi Alba doing it on the left, there’s much more room for both players to venture to the middle, and be the double pass option for Lionel Messi.

Messi, if you noticed, intentionally drove into groups of four players for Real Madrid, immediately converging on the Argentinian wonder. That was to draw the 1-2 pass option with anyone. The problem is that Andres Iniesta was usually that only option for him, and not enough. When they did get those few chances in the box, they should have done more than score the two goals by Pedro and Xavi, both off fantastic assists.

If there was any doubt in my mind about who are the better team, it was forgotten last night. Barcelona simply match up wonderfully against Real Madrid, who still can’t find a way, most of the time, to play like an actual great team, the way they should, and a way that actually works. Barcelona were a tad unlucky to leave the pitch with only one goal to take as their lead heading into the second leg on Wednesday, but improving the way they attack against quality defenses will take care of that luck business.

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