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La Masia at it again

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Just when Barcelona needed them, La Masia stepped up their game. When Dutch referee Danny Makkelie blew the final whistle at the Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys, Barcelona had not only won a very important Champions League win against Napoli but also made an important statement. Over the last few years,  Blaugrana have faced hard times that have seen them suffer humiliating defeats in the Champions League La Liga while also going almost on the edge of financial bankruptcy that forced them to activate several ‘economic levers.’

This season has also been far from perfect, with Barcelona trailing league leaders Real Madrid by eight points and Xavi leaving the managerial post at the end of the season. However, against Napoli in the second leg of their Champions League tie, Barcelona showed that they can succeed at the biggest stage and under the biggest pressure of the continental tournament.

Three La Masia graduates were the main architects of this win. First, there was rising centre-back Pau Cubarsí. Then there was goalscorer Fermín López and prolific attacker Lamine Yamal. The way these three played should give immense hope to the club’s fans.

A mix of experience and youth 

Before the game, Barcelona had not won in any of their last four Champions League knockouts, drawing two and losing two. However, there was some consolation in the fact that their last win came against Napoli itself back in the 2019-20 season.

They started the game perfectly, as Lopez side-footed a neat pass from Raphinha. It was a very calm and composed finish from the youngster. Barcelona added another just a minute later before Napoli pulled on back through Amir Rrahmani.

However, with only a one-goal lead, Barcelona didn’t hold back and went on the offensive, which is why they ended the night with 24 shots compared to Napoli’s 14. A major reason for this was the duo of Lopez and Yamal, who constantly harassed Napoli’s left wing.

Yamal, in particular, found space time and again on the right flank. While the duo of Lopez and Yamal worked its magic in the attack, Cubarsi kept things tight in the back. As Barcelona played with a high back line, Napoli’s pacey attack always found opportunities.

Cubarsi’s first major contribution came in the second minute when he did well in holding off Viktor Osimhen, who was in the box with the ball. Six minutes later, Osimhen would have been through one-on-one on goal with the keeper if the teenage defender had not made a perfectly timed tackle.

The youngster also showed his imperious passing skill as he repeatedly found teammates up on the pitch with perfectly timed long balls. However, the majority of his night was spent on nullifying Osimhen, a task he completed successfully.

Cubarsi ended the night with a passing accuracy of 89,7 per cent, a tackle success rate of 100 per cent and more than five clearances. We have to remember all this came on his Champions League debut.

Barcelona’s young stars future 

While analysing Barcelona’s victory over Napoli, we must keep in mind that it came without two of their best young stars: Pedri and Gavi. They are not the only youth academy players with

Iñaki Peña, Ander Astralaga, Marc Casadó, Marc Guiu, and Héctor Fort were also on the substitutes bench.

Last time Barcelona dominated the world football stage, it was built on the bedrock of the talent supplied by La Masia. The induction of so many academy graduates in the current squad shows that the famed youth system has rediscovered its mojo.

And while Xavi may be leaving at the end of the season, the future of Barcelona looks to be promising, something that could help them get back to the zenith of the football world, where they belonged for so many years.

Saumy Deepak Tripathi
A Bayern Munich fan who is deeply in love with football statistics. Has a soft spot for goalkeepers! (well only he knows why). You’ll find him vibing on 70’s classic songs and spends an abnormal amount of time cooking.

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