Weak Barcelona hurt by Celta on their way to Paris

Posted by Francesc Tomas

Barcelona achieved a draw against Celta de Vigo at the Estadio Balaidos in Matchday 29 of La Liga. Cristian Tello and Lionel Messi scored the goals for the Blaugrana, who enjoyed 71 percent of possession, created eight goal-scoring chances and attempted five shots, three of them on target.

- Messi goal streak hits 19 in draw

The FIFA virus strikes again

Surprise, surprise: Once again, Barcelona was considerably hurt by the international break. As a result of their efforts to try to achieve qualification for Spain for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Xavi Hernandez and Jordi Alba are now suffering from strained hamstrings and Pedro Rodriguez has sustained a tear in his right calf muscle.

Despite the fact that the absence of every one of these three key players is bound to hinder the team's potential, I must admit the particular case of Xavi annoys me the most.

If we look back in time for just a couple of weeks, we can see how Vicente Del Bosque decided to call up the player despite having suffered from that very same injury on and off for several weeks.

Please note that I am fully aware this is a problem that all major clubs face, but that doesn't make me feel any better. If it is up to the clubs to pay the player's wages, then their employees should be available for selection when required. Can you imagine a builder given full pay by his company while recovering from an accident he suffered building someone else's house? Me neither.

Anyway, back to the Celta game as, unfortunately, FIFA and national federations will certainly be allowed to continue to make profit out of the clubs' assets whether we like it or not.

Eric Abidal, back with the squad

After being sidelined for over a year after undergoing life-threatening liver transplant surgery, Eric Abidal was included in the Blaugrana squad in what was a tremendous confidence boost for not only the player himself, but also his adoring teammates.

Personally, I feel the main reason for the success that this group of players has achieved in recent years is the fact that they trust, protect and care for each other not only on a professional level, but also on a personal one.

The frantic battles that Tito Vilanova and Abidal have faced and conquered off the pitch could have potentially demolished the squad's morale. But, in fact, the bravery and determination these two inspirational men have shown has actually brought the team further together.

A tricky match before facing PSG

Jordi Roura (in what was scheduled to be his last game in charge before Vilanova returns to his managerial role in Paris on Tuesday) opted to field a starting eleven full of players who, for one reason or another, haven't enjoyed too much playing time this season. A move that allowed key players such as Andres Iniesta, David Villa and Javier Mascherano much needed rest before the upcoming Champions League clash in midweek.

As expected, Barcelona were given plenty of opportunity to take control of possession in midfield, with Celta defending aggressively deep in their own defending third and hoping to hurt the visitors via quick counterattacking runs or isolated set pieces.

The hosts managed to hit first after Natxo Insa took advantage of a chaotic situation in the heart of the Blaugrana defense, with most of the back line expecting others to step up to clear the mess instead of taking action themselves. Very poor indeed.

Thankfully, the relentless Messi enabled Tello shortly after with a trademark through pass which the Catalan youngster, as usual, managed to place in the back of the net with a confident shot.

After the halftime break, the Cules continued to control the match but were mostly unable to break the rival's back line as, quite frankly, the ball was not flowing at the necessary speed from midfield. Luckily, an individual Tello effort from the left wing enabled Messi's goal in what should have been the winner for the visitors.

Inexplicably, Barcelona seemed to take their foot off the accelerator and relaxed even further in the late stages, allowing the Gallegos plenty of space which they used to their advantage. After 88 minutes, Oubina scored with what will certainly be the easiest header of his career, totally unmarked a couple of meters off the Barcelona goal line.

A frustrating ending for a match which Barcelona should have wrapped up easily. While I'm fully aware that the cushion over Real Madrid is still comfortable, giving away points in this manner is certainly not a positive sign. The fact that Los Blancos ended up dropping points at Zaragoza, while a relief, doesn't make the team's poor result any easier to accept.

Let's hope that some of those who were hurt by the unforgiving FIFA virus can come back in time to face PSG at the Stade de France in midweek. The biggest trophy in European football won't be travelling back to the Camp Nou museum unless the team shows an improved level of speed, flow, desire and defensive intensity.

Player Ratings (0-10; 10=best)

Jose Manuel Pinto (6) -- A couple of brilliant saves in front of his former home crowd.

Dani Alves (5) -- Eager to get involved at both ends of the pitch, but not always able to make an impact when going forward as his passing wasn't always as good as he would have hoped for.

Martin Montoya (6) -- Solid defensively; didn't overcomplicate his offensive duties. A positive performance in his return to the starting lineup.

Gerard Pique (4) -- Unusually insecure. His inexplicable blunder late in the first half, failing to clear an easy through ball, could have costed his team dearly.

Marc Bartra (5) -- After coming on as a substitute four times in La Liga, he was finally trusted to start his first game of the season in the domestic competition. Performed well given his youth and lack of playing time. Let's hope he can continue to grow in his role.

Alex Song (5) -- Provided the midfield with a strong defensive presence but wasn't always able to make the ball flow as fast as it should have.

Cesc Fabregas (4) -- Considering the absences of Xavi and Iniesta in the starting lineup, Cules would have hoped for the former Arsenal captain to step up which he, disappointingly, didn't. Improvement urgently needed.

Thiago Alcantara (4) -- Similarly to Cesc, struggled to create much danger. A poor showing which saw him being substituted by Andres Iniesta after just 64 minutes on the pitch.

Lionel Messi (7) -- The only Blaugrana star who never seems to get or want a rest. Started his first ever Liga game as Barcelona captain; assisted Tello for the Catalans' first; scored the decisive second with a quality finish. His impressive 19-match goal-scoring record makes him the first player to ever score against every other team consecutively but I'm sure he would have preferred to take the three points instead.

Cristian Tello (8) -- Man of the Match -- Scored after one of his piercing runs from the left wing, finishing with an accurate, confident strike. Assisted Messi for the team's second, his fourth in La Liga. His lethal combination with La Pulga was, by far, the best news of the night.

Alexis Sanchez (6) -- Contributed well in attack, often dropping into more central positions with clever diagonal runs from the wing. Didn't score, but was able to create spaces for others such as Messi or Alves thanks to his constant mobility.

Substitutes: Andres Iniesta (5), David Villa (5), Sergio Busquets (5)

Have your say

What did you think of Barcelona's performance vs. Celta?

Who was your Man of the Match? What are your player ratings?

I welcome and appreciate all respectful feedback.

For more news and opinion notes on Barcelona, follow Francesc Tomas at @Barcablog_com and Facebook; 33,000 Cules have already joined.

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