Yesterday,a wasteful FC Barcelona team were held to a 1-1 draw at home to SSC Napoli in the first leg of their Europa League play-offs. The Catalan giants who conceded a goal in the 29' minute of play from Zielinski fought to salvage a draw, thanks to a second half Ferran Torres penalty goal.
Xavi Hernandez's men were clearly the better side in the game,with well drilled passes and a midfield which they controlled from the start of the game to the finish,but the goals weren't just coming.
A few youngsters like Pablo Gavi,Pedri Gonzalez and Nico Gonzalez were the standouts in the game.
Another positive take away from yesterday's game was the fact that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang started his first game for the Spanish giants, playing as a center forward with Adama Traore and Ferran Torres at the right and left wings respectively.
In the game against Napoli yesterday,FC Barcelona had 69% ball possession,had 21 shots on goal with 5 on target, against Napoli who had 31% ball possession with 4 shots on target.
Going into the next game,Xavi Hernandez will obviously have to make big changes if he hopes to advance to the next round of the European competition.
Of course, the team didn't live upto expectations yesterday,but a few players fell rather below the radar,and may have to be benched if the team is to progress into the next round of the competition.
Xavi Hernandez will face Napoli next week February 24 in an attempt to overturn the results of the first leg and qualify.
With all being said,here are three key players the Spanish coach will have to bench if he wants to get satisfactory results at the end of the day;
1. Gerard Pique
The team's captain didn't step up yesterday,as he left Zielinski a second chance to hit the ball into the back of the net from a rebound. Gerard Pique had a chance to clear the ball,but failed to do so.
Victor Osimhen also gave him a run for his money,as the youngster totally outpaced him throughout the game.
Araujo may be a viable option if Gerard Pique is benched for the return leg.
2. Jordi Alba
The opener for SSC Napoli came through the left flank, which was supposed to be manned by Jordi Alba. A quick counter gave the left back little option to backtrack after overlapping too much,and so Zielinski was left with Pique and Ter Stegen to finish off his chances.
Jordi Alba's lack of pace may prove costly for FC Barcelona if he is not dropped in the next game.
3. Ferran Torres
In fact,FC Barcelona were held to a draw yesterday all thanks to Ferran Torres' horrible finishing. The Spaniard missed several chances,his penalty goal notwithstanding. His miss in the first half of the game came in the 28' minute,and a minute later, Zielinski finished off a well crafted counterattack.
It didn't help matters that he was emotional after the game,but the lad certainly deserves a game or two off to recover his form. Hopefully,a trio of Aubameyang, Luuk De Jong and Ousmane Dembele will help the Blaugranas to victory in their next game against Napoli.
Which other player(s) do you think ought to be benched by Xavi Hernandez for the return leg against SSC Napoli at the Stadio San Paolo?