The return of La Liga action is a source of great comfort for football fans and for Barcelona ones in particular there’s nothing better than the reassurance that even in a post-pandemic world, Lionel Messi is still majestic.
The Argentine wasn’t even at full throttle and drifted in and out of the Saturday night’s game but his two assists and a goal inspired the Catalans to a 4-0 win at Mallorca.
Even under the current circumstances though, Messi being brilliant isn’t exactly breaking news.
Some of his supporting cast deserve recognition too, especially those who have a point to prove during the mad dash to this season’s finish line.
Arturo Vidal has now scored seven league goals this season, the most he’s managed in a single campaign since 2014/15 with Juventus (also 7).
Just 65 seconds on the match clock. ⏭ pic.twitter.com/3ydBnljiVq
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) June 13, 2020
It took just 64 seconds for Arturo Vidal to score Barcelona’s first goal of their season resumption. And if he was keen on exhibiting the unique skillset he offers over the other midfielders in Barca’s ranks, then this did the trick.
He burst into the box when Frenkie de Jong played the ball wide and imposed himself on the defender, out-muscling him to head home Jordi Alba’s peach of a cross.
It was a testament to his dynamism and what separates him from Quique Setien’s other midfield options. He only had 45 minutes in the encounter to make his case but that goal coupled with his incessant pressing and energetic play certainly helped.
Vidal has recently dropped hints about leaving the Camp Nou this summer, talking up his relationship with Inter boss Antonio Conte.
Despite scoring his seventh league goal this campaign which matches his tally for Bayern Munich in the 2016/17 season as his best-ever, Barca fans still have reservations about the 33-year-old.
It’s not so much his level of performance but his general style that struggles for appreciation from the Blaugrana support. He has another 10 games to win them over.
February 2020: Signs for Barcelona and says it’s a dream come true
June 2020: Scores his first goal for the club
Martin Braithwaite is living the dream 🙏 pic.twitter.com/StIX0zhtNP
— B/R Football (@brfootball) June 13, 2020
Barcelona sparked controversy when they triggered Martin Braithwaite’s €18m release clause at Leganes to make him an ’emergency signing’ in February with Ousmane Dembele facing another lengthy spell on the sidelines and Luis Suarez injured as well.
Following the season’s interruption, Suarez has recovered while Dembele is close to a return but the Frenchman would be ineligible to feature for the rest of the season as per regulations. That’s now elevated expectations on Braithwaite who must prove he deserves his Barcelona shirt as a key member of the squad rather than a stop-gap drafted in during an injury crisis.
Starting on the left against Mallorca, he took time to find his feet but eventually bolstered his claim for a starting berth even with Suarez taking to the pitch later on. He was involved in some promising attacks and took his first goal for the club superbly.
He brings a fresh dynamic to the attack and what also works in his favour is Antoine Griezmann’s poor outing. The France World Cup winner has looked lively but out of place since his €120m signing in the summer and the restart hasn’t brought about any change on that front.
Ronald Araújo’s game by numbers vs. Mallorca:
94% pass accuracy
75% aerials won
3 ball recoveries
0 goals conceded
Comfortable. 🇺🇾 pic.twitter.com/gDTkVCUywt
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) June 13, 2020
Barcelona seem perennially in the market for a centre-back and this summer appears to be no different. Gerard Pique continues to lead the rearguard but Setien needs alternatives to the 33-year-old beyond Clement Lenglet who has proved a steady partner.
The Frenchman was suspended for this fixture though and with the injury-prone Samuel Umtiti not 100 percent fit either, Ronaldo Araujo was handed a first start.
The 21-year-old seized the opportunity brilliantly. He looked composed at the back and assured in everything he did. He nearly got on the score sheet as well when he struck Messi’s drilled cross onto the post.
It was in contrast to his debut display last October when he replaced Jean-Clair Todibo during a 4-0 win over Sevilla and was sent off just 14 minutes later.
With Todibo now at Schalke on loan and up for sale, Araujo has the opportunity to prove his mettle and establish himself as a viable option at centre-back.
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