El Centrocampista

BACK TO THE FUTURE – Barça B return to form as new faces shine.

By Lee Roden

With the international break in full flow, most English speaking FC Barcelona supporters may think that things are quiet in the Catalan capital.

Far from it, la segunda rolls on whilst the first division is on a break, and Barça B have been in the thick of it this weekend.

Summer has not been kind to the blaugrana juniors – influential manager Luis Enrique, who guided the club to an incredible third place finish in the second division, has long since moved on to Roma.

Furthering the dent was the departure of key players Nolito (Benfica) and Edu Oriol (Real Zaragoza).

It never rains but it pours, as they say, and with the injury of Jonathan Soriano during pre-season, it started heaving down.

Replacing last season’s Pichichi was never going to be easy, especially when some of his colleagues who were likely to fill in, like Edu Oriol, are now elsewhere.

Eusebio's young starlets lost last week to Villarreal B

As such, it was no surprise last week when Barça B were hounded by Villarreal B in a match which made them look clearly inferior to their yellow adversaries.

This wouldn’t have been an easy pill to swallow for the faithful at the Mini Estadi, who by now are quite rightly becoming accustomed to dominance and flowing football from the lesser member of the Barça brotherhood.

New coach Eusebio Sacristo had a task on his hands, and knew he would need to prove his worth to silence any post-Enrique doubters.

The coach seized the mantle, beginning with the somewhat surprising call-up of young left wingback Grimaldo to the B squad from Juvenil A last week.

Heads were raised at the rapid promotion of the youngster, who was supposed to be in Glasgow with Juvenil A in the NextGen series. In the end, it proved to be an inspired choice.

At only 15 years of age, Grimaldo began his B debut by showing class above his years, a sight becoming all too familiar from La Masia products.

Played in a more attacking role than usual, his confident, ambitious and crucially, composed play was one of many highlights during Barça B’s 4-0 away victory over Cartagena.

Indeed, his involvement in the third goal will go a long way to proving his maturity for sceptical followers (myself included, admittedly).

Another player worth his weight in gold was Rafinha Alcantara.

Netting a brace, Thiago’s younger sibling has taken off where his brother left off, and controlled the game for sustained periods.

It is difficult to resist jumping to conclusions, but based on performances like today, we can expect equally great things from the younger Alcantara.

For those of you not familiar with his style, try to imagine Thiago with more flare. Seriously.

Admittedly, Eusebio was gifted with a slight luxury thanks to the international break.

The coach was able to call upon Jonathan Dos Santos and, as you would expect from a player now considered part of the Barça first team, the bold midfielder looked a cut above his opponents.

That being said, we must also remember that Eusebio had to negotiate the loss of Martin Montoya to the Spain squad this week.

Montoya’s call up and indeed , quality, is a scary indication of the class to be found in the Barça B squad.

In managing to keep a clean sheet with the absence of such a revered player (and indeed, now senior player by Barça B standards), Sacristo must again be credited.

Things got better too, new signing Kiko Femenia seems to finally be settling in, and indeed opened the scoring after a typical piece of counterattacking play by the Catalans.

Kiko is a relatively big signing for the B team, and his development into a big game player will be crucial if Eusebio is going to recover from the likely exit of Jonathan Soriano.

Exciting matches like this are one of the many reasons I would give for Barça supporters to seek out and watch B games when possible.

The B team really are in an incredible and rare moment right now, and one wonders how they would cope in the first division if they were permitted promotion (which will of course never happen, but we can dream).

The Internet has made la segunda much more accessible for those outside Spain these days, and with a small amount of creative thinking, it’s pretty easy to view Barça B games online.

Obviously I’ll avoid being specific here, but you know what I mean.

In last year’s version of this fixture, Barça B were trounced 5-1. Perhaps Eusebio Sacristo’s team are not as inferior to their previous incarnation as many previously thought Time will tell, but catch them while you can


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