There were only few glimpses of the brilliance we tend to expect, but those glimpses were enough to win the three vital points
Barcelona struggled to break the deadlock in the tough away match against Eibar, but it was Lionel Messi who scored the decisive goals in what was a routine display from the Catalans. There were only few glimpses of the brilliance we tend to expect, but those glimpses were enough to win the three vital points.
It is becoming clear that this Barcelona struggles against sides that defend deep, and is more comfortable playing against teams that try to press high up the pitch. Eibar played with a 5-man backline (image below) for the majority of the 90 minutes and tried to limit the combination play between the Barcelona front three.
This strategy worked fairly well and Barcelona struggled to find spaces. Perhaps this was also due to the fact that the Catalans’ movement was rather limited as they tried to get the win with as little effort as possible, with the important midweek fixture against Manchester City in mind.
The few times Barcelona did manage to break through; however, they did so with spectacular football. The play leading to Messi’s penalty goal was a prime example of how to break down a solid defense. The image below shows how it all starts: Neymar beats his man out wide, and simultaneously, Luis Suárez makes an intelligent run towards the ball, which forces the center back to follow the Uruguayan. You can already see the space that starts to open up behind Suárez, and Ivan Rakitic spots it as well.
What happens next shows Suárez’ unpredictability and trickery – and keep in mind, he is yet to touch the ball at all. He has dragged the center back out of position, and then makes a quick turn to run into the space that his movement has opened up. Suddenly Barcelona have a man with the ball (Neymar) running towards the defense, with two men (Suárez and Rakitic) making a run to the space behind it. Neymar plays the ball to Rakitic, who taps it on to Suárez. It was Suárez’ final pass to Messi that eventually lead to the Argentine’s shot and, in consequence, the penalty.