Frenkie de Jong shows Man Utd what they are missing as Barcelona go top – 5 talking points
The Catalan giants traveled to Cadiz knowing that first-place La Liga status was up for grabs, as title rivals and long-time adversaries Real Madrid are not in action until Sunday.
Barcelona ran out 4-0 winners against a tenacious Cadiz side in a Saturday evening La Liga match disrupted by a medical issue in the stands.
Xavi Hernandez headed his Barcelona squad to Cadiz’s Nuevo Mirandilla knowing that a win would put them at the top of the table for a short time. The Blaugrana manager certainly had one eye on the midweek Champions League trip to Bayern Munich and picked a starting XI that reflected that.
Raphinha, a former Leeds player, came the closest early on with a left-footed shot just inside the box that rocked the goal frame. The Brazilian international should consider himself lucky not to get sent off after a particularly heinous challenge on ex-Arsenal striker Lucas Perez shortly after.
Following Alejandro Balde was tripped within the penalty area, Xavi was left fuming in his technical area midway through the first half, but no penalty kick was awarded after a quick VAR review.
The second half saw a notable improvement in Barcelona’s play, with Frenkie de Jong scoring his first goal of the season before Robert Lewandowski increased the visitors’ lead. Barcelona cruised through the rest of the game to maintain their lead in the league for the time being.
The game was halted for more than 30 minutes late in the tie owing to a medical incident that saw Cadiz goalkeeper Conan Ledesma toss a defibrillator into the fans. The players departed the field in accordance with the referee’s instructions, while on-site doctors treated the individual in question.
Ansu Fati scored again for Barcelona after the lengthy delay, making it 3-0 on the night. Ousmane Dembele added a fourth goal to Cadiz’s woes.
De Jong piqued Manchester United’s interest in the summer for good cause; the Netherlands international is a dynamic midfielder.
While his goal was simple for a player of his caliber – De Jong just guided the ball into an empty net after being the first to reply to a rebound – his complete performance was outstanding.
De Jong is a driving force on the pitch, always wanting to move his team up the pitch. His goal was a reward for outstanding performance in the middle of the park.
During what was frequently a cagey, hard-fought duel, De Jong’s technique stood out and sent a message to the Barcelona leadership than trying to cash in on him again would be a mistake.
1. The depth of Barcelona
When a manager makes as many changes as Xavi did, there is bound to be plenty of talent waiting in the wings to make an impact.
That was certainly the case for Barcelona against Cadiz, who threw in top-tier players such as Lewandowski, Pedri, and Ousmane Dembele mere minutes after De Jong scored.
It didn’t take long for those replacements to have an effect, with Lewandowski scoring from close range only seven minutes after coming on to put the game beyond doubt.
The tap-in was Poland’s international sixth La Liga goal of the season in five games, coming on the heels of a treble in the Champions League in midweek. Three of the four goals scored on the night were scored by players who came off the bench, demonstrating the caliber of players available to Barcelona.
2. Xavi attempts to flex his attacking muscles
Many fans and analysts dismissed Barcelona’s attacking alternatives at the start of last season.
Fast forward to now, and Xavi has a plethora of star-studded talent at his disposal to put the ball in the back of the net, as seen by his starting lineup.
Midweek hat-trick hero Robert Lewandowski was dropped to the bench, but the permanent departure of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang isn’t causing the Barcelona manager any problems.
Memphis was instead given the starting center position, with Ferran Torres and summer newcomer Raphinha on either flank. It was a completely different front three than the one that put Plzen to the sword earlier in the week.
Memphis squandered what was likely the greatest chance of the first 45 minutes, failing to connect with a first-time shot on the edge of the six-yard box.
3. A transformed Barcelona
Following Wednesday night’s spectacular 5-1 thrashing of Viktoria Plzen at the Camp Nou, boss Xavi made a staggering number of changes to his starting lineup.
Only goalkeeper Marc ter Stegen and midfielder Frenkie de Jong started from the outset in midweek and again on Saturday against Cadiz.
The entire back four in front of their goalkeeper changed, with Gerard Pique returning after being sidelined in midweek in favor of summer addition Jules Kounde.
Pedri and Ansu Fati, two of Barcelona’s most promising young talents, were both absent from the squad for the weekend’s away trip, and Barcelona appeared to be lacking in their typical flair at times.
Gavi and De Jong both tried their hardest to break down a tenacious Cadiz backline, but the bottom-placed team fought valiantly.
De Jong’s goal came before a triple substitution, but the game didn’t truly shift in Barcelona’s favor until some of the big hitters were entered.
4. Bellerin’s first appearance
The former Arsenal right-back made his senior debut at the club where it all started for him as a La Masia product.
Bellerin’s desire to return to Spain was well-documented, and many anticipated him to eventually don the green and white of Real Betis after spending last season on loan there and supporting them as a child.
The young Spaniard exhibited symptoms of rust, which is understandable given the little amount of game time Bellerin has had in recent months.
His tempting cross sparked a tussle in the box, resulting in a chance that Memphis Depay failed to convert.