Mix-and-Match Team Draws in Split

July 25, 2011

FC Barcelona kicked-off preseason with a goalless draw against Croatian team Hadjuk Split on Saturday night. Guardiola called on a number of B stars, who performed ably alongside established first-teamers such as Andrés Iniesta, David Villa and Sergio Busquets. The game represented a useful workout for the players, as they take their first steps towards regaining peak-fitness.

Barcelona assumed control early on, retaining possession with relative ease against a Hajduk side that was happy to withdraw to the edge of its area. Split’s game-plan was to try to catch Barcelona on the break down the wings, but they had little joy early on against a young, energetic side that was quick to close down space to win back the ball. It was a pattern that would characterise the match.

David Villa went closest in the opening stages, lashing a swirling shot from outside the area, which beat Hajduk’s keeper but slammed against the post. This chance prompted the home team to embark on a couple of offensive forays; winger Marin Tomasov cut in from the right flank on the counter and found himself one-on-one with Valdés, but Barça’s keeper dealt easily with a tame near-post shot.

A few minutes later David Villa could only turn a near-post Dos Santos corner into the side-netting, before Afellay ducked inside from the left, beating a number of defenders but shooting straight at the keeper. Young midfielder Thiago was looking increasingly lively – his most remarkable contribution was to jink past two Split defenders before driving a shot straight at the ‘keeper

The second half saw a changed Barça XI, with Busquets, Iniesta and Abidal joined by Barcelona B players such as Jonathan Soriano and Isaac Cuenca.

Jeffrén spurned a couple of openings, while Iniesta and Soriano linked up for the best move of the match, but once again the Split keeper was equal to the task. Isaac Cuenca also went close late on, but the match finished 0-0.

As a fitness exercise it was a successful encounter for Guardiola, who was able to field 22 players and avoid any injuries. The coming weeks should see the return of more established stars, while new signings will also be added to the fold.

Among the new faces is Chilean forward Alexis Sánchez. The 22-year-old joined from Udinese for an initial €26m and will bolster Guardiola’s options both on the wings and through the middle. Alexis found his best form last season playing as a shadow striker, in a role not too far removed from Messi’s at Barcelona.

There have been departures in recent days as well. Bojan Krkic has joined Serie A side Roma for €12m, although Barcelona will have an option to buy back the player for a similar fee in two years time. Another deal with a buyback clause should see the promising central midfielder, Oriol Romeu join Chelsea in the coming days.

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