Two Wizards Get Their Chance: Gerard Deulofeu and Denis Suarez To Start vs. Eibar

Are the Barcelona boys ready for a breakthrough?

With Luis Suarez in irregular form and Ousmane Dembele injured, two young players will be counted on even more than before: Denis Suarez and Gerard Deulofeu. Both start tonight alongside Lionel Messi upfront for FC Barcelona as they take on Eibar.

Both have shown encouraging signs recently and they would like to extend that as Barça will count on them to play more minutes than ever before. Both have come up through Barcelona B and various spells at other clubs before getting the chance they have this season. They even spent time together at Sevilla. Both have shown flashes of great potential but both have yet to firmly establish themselves as true heavyweights.

The “D&D” duo needs to support Messi, who has taken the bulk of scoring himself so far this season. Messi is the only player with more than one goal to his name, and the only player to register at least one goal and at least one assist (Sergi Roberto is the other.) Denis has scored a goal while Deulofeu has registered an assist so far in the league.

Denis has logged only 72 minutes in La Liga across 3 substitute appearances, but his latest showing was by far his most encouraging. He scored a vital goal and generally played very well against Getafe.

Deulofeu has played all 4 league games and registered 272 minutes, more than the likes of Gerard Pique, Andres Iniesta, and Luis Suarez. He’s slowly gaining in confidence and with Dembele’s injury, he’s likely to play a lot on the right.

These two young wizards are just 23, meaning that it’s right about the time they should be making the jump to the next level. Let’s see if they can continue to improve.

“A Croatian Guy Walks Into a Bar” Story By Ivan Rakitic in The Players’ Tribune

The FC Barcelona player takes us through his life

Ivan Rakitic has written a first-person account of his life: growing up, starting his career, meeting his wife, joining Sevilla, moving to Barcelona, and having children.

You can read it here.

This account was written for The Players’ Tribune, a website which publishes content created by athletes. It was written by former New York Yankees star Derek Jeter.

Some interesting tidbits:

  • Rakitic suspects that his wife, Raquel, didn’t want to go out with him when he first got to Sevilla because she thought he wasn’t going to be good. He thinks she thought Sevilla would sell him quickly, and he would have to move countries.
  • It was actually difficult for him to move away from Sevilla, the city in which he met Raquel. But in the end, her and her whole family understood his decision.
  • The Barcelona players were surprised with how much Spanish he spoke, and he thinks it helped him adapt quickly.
  • His four-year-old daughter gets really mad when someone besides him scores, even if he assisted it. “Maybe I will try to talk to Lionel Messi about this,” he jokes.

Paulinho Critics Made the Mistake of Setting Expectations Too Low

The Brazilian was by far Barça’s most controversial signing

Paulinho silenced critics, at least temporarily, with a great debut goal that capped a 2-1 comeback for Barcelona over Getafe.

The Brazilian had been met by great skepticism among the Camp Nou faithful, as he had been playing in China after an unsuccessful spell in Europe with Tottenham Hotspur.

He came on as a sub and made one of his trademark driving runs, received a pass from Lionel Messi, and charged in with his physicality, dispatching a shot past a helpless keeper.

Cules were ecstatic, perhaps none more so than the Barcelona board. According to a report in Diario SPORT, the ones present at the match were incredibly happy. They pointed to Robert Fernandez, the sporting director who was under pressure after a tumultuous summer transfer window, in celebration.

Paulinho’s critics may not be fully convinced yet after just one goal, but it has changed the narrative surrounding him, at least for the moment.

Perhaps they made a miscalculation in excoriating him to such a degree even before he had played a match for the Blaugrana. The result was expectations were set so low that scoring a winning goal is now being seen as either a miracle or proof that they didn’t know what they were talking about at all.

Paulinho starts for the Brazilian national team, after all. Sure, the international game is different than the club game. But Brazil are still one of the top teams in the world, and it’s hard to think anyone would become an automatic starter for them at this point, or score a hat trick away to Uruguay, and be completely without merit.

The criticism of the signing is fair if you steer away from hyperbole. Paulinho cost 40 million, still not exactly a pittance even in this crazy market. He’s 29 and on a long deal that could see him become unsellable when he declines.

He needs to be judged by the barometer of a 40-million-euro player, not by the barometer set by Twitter memes that suggest he’s totally useless.

Barcelona needed a long term midfield starter to replace Andres Iniesta, or one that would immediately challenge Ivan Rakitic. Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho was in the first category, Paris Saint-Germain’s Marco Verratti in the other. Neither came.

Instead, you have Paulinho, and likely Rakitic and Iniesta still starting for the foreseeable future. That’s something everyone knows was not what Barça needed this offseason.

Still, Paulinho is here and not just to collect a paycheck. He’s not so poor we should expect him never to score, obviously. In fact, he can be useful, as he has already shown. And he deserves fans’ support, just like any other player.

His limitations still are what they are. It’s best not to go overboard, though – in either direction.

Liga Watch: Real Sociedad Finally Lose, Sevilla Move Into Second

Malaga and Alaves still winless

Real Madrid beat Real Sociedad 3-1 to get back to their winning ways, meaning La Real failed to win for the first time this season. This left Barcelona sole leaders atop the league, as they mounted a 2-1 comeback win over Getafe.

Meanwhile, Sevilla moved into second place as Luis Muriel scored the lone goal in a 1-0 win away to Girona. They’re on a three-game win streak after their opening day 1-1 draw against Espanyol.

Malaga and Alaves are in trouble, both rooted to the basement in the league, both without a single point to their name. Malaga lost to Atletico Madrid as the colchoneros unveiled their new stadium with a 1-0 triumph.

Alaves looked hopeless again as Villarreal thrashed them 3-0 with a brace from Cedric Bakambu and another from Carlos Bacca.

Alaves, playing with ex Barça wonderboys Bjoan Krkic and Munir El-Haddadi upfront, have yet to score a goal in their four games. They look dead certain to be relegated if they continue on their current course.

Espanyol got a much-needed win over Celta, 2-1. That’s their first win of the season, meaning only Deportivo, alongside Malaga and Alaves, are yet to win.

Levante could be a team to watch this season. The recently promoted side got a draw in the Valencian derby against Valencia CF. Enis Bardhi cancelled out Rodrigo Moreno’s opener to make the game end at 1-1.

That puts Levante 8th in the table, yet to lose. It’s even more impressive if you consider Levante drew against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu. Somewhat surprisingly, Levante also drew with Depor – the only point Depor has managed so far this season.

WATCH: Ousmane Dembele May Have Had an Injury Even Before The Match

And he later had to withdraw, could be out for 4 months

Ousmane Dembele had to stop playing during Barcelona’s 2-1 win over Getafe due to a muscle injury on his left leg that could keep him out between 3-4 months. But new images suggest Dembele’s leg was bothering him even before the match started.

In video shown by El Golazo del Gol, Dembele seems to resist fully stretching his left leg in the pre-game warmups. He also reaches for his muscle, apparently feeling pain.

Coach Ernesto Valverde had this to say about the story: “We can’t read too much into this. When a player stretches, they always touch parts of their body. He’s a player who has never had a muscular problem, he doesn’t have the experience to recognize it.”

Ernesto Valverde is Being Asked Some Stupid Questions

His latest presser had a couple of really bad ones

Ernesto Valverde had to deal with two pretty awful questions in his latest press conference as FC Barcelona prepare to take on Getafe.

The first came about 12 minutes into this video. The journalist says: “there had been talk that Ousmane Dembele had asked for Lionel Messi’s shirt after his debut. I’m not sure if you are seeing him a little affected, excited to play alongside Messi at only 20 years old.” The problem? That story about Dembele asking for Messi’s shirt seems like a fake started on Twitter.

The first reference I can find comes from this account, which later claimed to have done it to fool outlets in Spain.

An honest mistake, I guess, for a journalist to make… since it may have been repeated on Cadena COPE (I didn’t hear it first hand on COPE, but many said they did) and it was later reprinted by Diario SPORT.

The second question that I took issue with strikes me as even worse, though. It happens at around 16:30: “I’m not sure if you had power to choose the best 11 this week in the Champions League, you would have picked someone from your own team, after beating Juventus. I say that because UEFA did not pick any of your players for the team of the week.”

That journalist was referring to a team selected by UEFA that had the following players:

Except, you’ll notice, it’s from the Fantasy Team of the Week. That’s the players who generated the most points in the Fantasy Football game UEFA runs for the Champions League. It’s automated and based on how the game scores fantasy points (Messi lost a point for getting a yellow) and totally irrelevant and silly.

Valverde’s wry reply was simply “I guess they’re saving them for tomorrow, to have less rotation later.”

You’d think they’d give him less silly and/or inaccurate questions.

Nelson Semedo: Dani Alves is My Reference Point

Nelsinho had another brilliant match

Nelson Semedo is coming off a very fine performance for FC Barcelona as the Catalans swept Juventus aside in the UEFA Champions League by a score of 3-0.

“Each day I try to improve and do better,” Semedo said.

And speaking of who he wants to emulate at Barça, he was clear: “In his day, Dani Alves is my reference point. I’m trying to follow his line and arrive at his level. For now, I’m happy to be able to contribute to Barcelona’s success.”

Alves spent 8 extremely successful years as Barcelona’s starting right-back. Semedo hopes to finally fill that hole after Barça didn’t have an adequate replacement last season.

“I’ve always tried to do the best I can,” Semedo said. “The coach has given me his confidence and I’m trying to respond in the best possible way, helping the team.”

Samuel Umtiti Was Almost Booked for a Foul By Nelson Semedo

Gerard Pique prevented the referee from making an embarrassing mistake.

Why did referee Damir Skomina high five Gerard Pique in Barcelona’s 3-0 demolition of Juventus in the UEFA Champions League?

It’s because the Barcelona defender saved the ref’s blushes when Skomina was about to book the wrong player.

Semedo stopped Douglas Costa as Juventus mounted a counterattack, by pulling the attacker from the back. Costa fell right where Samuel Umtiti was standing, and the referee’s initial intention was to erroneously book the French defender, according to ex-referee Rafa Guerrero.

Pique intervened, and Skomina booked the correct player, Semedo. Skomina then thanked Pique for his service as human VAR, and hence, the high five.

With Juventus Triumph, Barcelona Have Turned It Around. For Now.

That Supercup looks further and further in the distance.

FC Barcelona avenged their Champions League elimination, at least partially, with a 3-0 win over Juventus in the UEFA Champions League. Lionel Messi was, of course, brilliant, but he was supported by a team that looked a lot more stable and mature than they ever did, either against Juventus last season, or in the two opening matches of this season.

Those were against Real Madrid in the Spanish Supercup, which ended in an aggregate defeat of 5-1. People said, quite rightly, that Madrid were superior to Barça by an overwhelming amount. That looks well in the past right now, though.

Back then it was easy to be sweeped up by the negativity, and think the whole season – hey, maybe even the next seasons for the next 5 years – were all going to be Real Madrid domination and nothing else.

But since then Madrid have looked wobbly, Barça less so, at least on the pitch. The board haven’t handled the new signings, among other topics, in a way that have convinced the fans fully. A large portion of the fanbase are still fed up with them. Maybe the movement to remove Josep Maria Bartomeu as president won’t succeed, but undeniably, there is a group there that isn’t’ going away that wants him gone.

On the pitch though? Barcelona have outscored opponents 12-0 in 4 wins after that Supercup embarrassment. And of course, one in the Champions League against a team of the caliber as the bianconeri is the crown jewel of that run.

But just as back then too many overreacted to a couple of bad games, it would not be prudent to overreact to this run of good form. Seasons are defined much later, although it’s not as if what’s happening now is irrelevant.

That four-point gap over Real Madrid in the league is nothing to scoff at, even at this early juncture. But in the Champions League, group stage wins only take you so far. Barça need to avoid fizzling out as the knockout rounds go on, something Real Madrid have been very good at.

Of course, for tonight, Cules can be quite happy about the direction the team went after those early defeats.

Behind the Scenes: Ousmane Dembele’s Debut for FC Barcelona

Dembele!!!!!!

Ousmane Dembele made his first appearance in an FC Barcelona shirt as Barça won the Catalan Derby against Espanyol by 5-0.

Here’s some footage from the show El Dia Despues. You can watch him joking with Paco Alcacer, fans hyped to see him play, and Ernesto Valverde giving instructions to him in English.

Also, FC Barcelona published a little video of the fans outside and the player driving in. Check it out: