Five talking points from Barcelona 5-1 Viktoria Plzen


Xavi promised to rotate his squad for this one and kept his word, making six changes to his starting XI and handing plenty of players some well-deserved minutes.

In defence, there were departures for Sergi Roberto, Jordi Alba and Andreas Christensen while Eric Garcia, Ronald Araujo and Alejandro Balde were rested.

Franck Kessie made his first competitive start and needed just 13 minutes to score, while Frenkie de Jong and Ansu Fati were also back in the starting XI.

We also got to see Gerard Pique on the bench for the first time this season, and there was also a Champions League debut for Pablo Torre.

It was the perfect match for Xavi to refresh his squad and give a host of players the chance to shine. The coach admitted it after the game but warned against overconfidence.

“Victory brings confidence, it boosts morale. Many players will go home tonight knowing they had some top games,” he said. “But it’s still a tough group, there’s no room for euphoria – it only wins us three points.”

Robert Lewandowski continued his incredible goalscoring form with a hat-trick for Barcelona in another classy performance. Barca’s top scorers last season were Auba and Memphis with 13 each, Lewandowski has eight and it’s only early September.

His goals were superb but it was not just that. Lewandowski also impresses with his work rate, drive, link-up play and his presence also seems to raise the level of his teammates. He’s already brought so much to Barcelona in his short time at the club and it’s obvious that having such a ruthless and clinical presence in attack makes life so much easier.

Sergi Roberto said so after the game, describing the new signing as ‘a gift’. Xavi called him “completely insatiable”, while the man of the moment won the match ball and humbly dedicated the goals to his wife on her birthday.

We all know there will be much tougher tests to come in the Champions League, especially against Bayern next time around, but Lewandowski is looking razor sharp ahead of his return to the Allianz Arena.

Ousmane Dembele is also fully fit ahead of the Germany trip. The French striker looks like a reborn man at the moment both on and off the pitch.

We rarely hear from the striker but he gave several pre-match interviews, opening up about his injury struggles and the impact Xavi has had on his career since taking over at Barcelona.

Certainly, Xavi gets the most out of the 25-year-old. The manager has given Dembele his full support since his arrival and is being rewarded with impressive performances. Dembele tormented Viktoria Plzen all night and ended up with two assists.

The first for Lewandowski started with a crisp tackle and then a relaxed cross-whip, while the second was a gorgeous through ball for Torres to smash home.

And you get the feeling there’s still more to come from Dembele. Xavi later admitted ‘he needs to score more’ and he’s right. Still, Dembele seems to enjoy playing alongside Lewandowski and it will be fascinating to see how he develops this season.

It will also be interesting to see what happens with Ferran Torres after a lively appearance on Wednesday night. The January signing was on the bench again against Plzen but came on and picked up an assist and a goal within five minutes.

It was also a goal from the Spanish international. Dembele’s recovered pass was rather special but there was still a lot of work to do. Ferran’s finish has been in question since his arrival in January but he didn’t make a mistake here, smashing the ball for Barca’s fifth.

Xavi has always been supportive of Ferran and Wednesday’s performance will have given the 22-year-old a much-needed boost of confidence. The striker spoke after the game about the players who should try their luck in the first team when they show up and he certainly did.

There were plenty of positives for Barcelona in their win over Viktoria Plzen, but the real test will come next week against Bayern. The German giants will have noted Barça’s firepower but also the fact that there are still exploitable cracks.

Xavi’s side failed to keep a clean sheet against the Czechs and conceded a rather sloppy goal. Sevilla also had plenty of joy falling behind at the weekend before being overpowered by Barca’s riches in attack.

Of course there will be changes for the trip to Germany. Sergio Busquets will surely return to midfield and Ronald Araujo will be back in defense and maybe others too.

It will be interesting to see where Jules Kounde plays against Bayern. The Frenchman, who picked up another assist on Wednesday, had another impressive outing but this time in central defense rather than on the right.

New signing Hector Bellerin could come in or Roberto could continue. The much-maligned 30-year-old started the season well and played down injury problems after leaving at half-time.

Either way, it will be interesting to see how Barca take on Bayern. The Bavarians kicked off their campaign with a 2-0 victory over Inter and won all six group matches last season.


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