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Setién, 1002 passes and a Messi goal


And so it turned out that Granada, the team that Johan Cryuff faced on his coaching debut at Barça all those years ago, were also the opponents on the day of Quique Setién’s inauguration.

Both games were not the same, of course. While the former went down in history for Cryuff’s emphatic 4-0 victory, Sunday’s game will soon be forgotten.

There aren’t many coaches that can influence a team as quickly as a former club star – think Guardiola at Barcelona, Simeone at Atlético or Zidane at Madrid. Whatever Setién can do, we'll see. But for now, he merely has a pale 1-0 win against ten men.

Setién’s first line-up was a setback for the radical followers of the Barça ‘style’, as Arturo Vidal, seen by those same followers as a kind of anti-Christ figure, made the cut. Nothing else was striking, aside from the formation: a 3-5-2 with the ball, a 4-3-3 when the opponent had it.

In the first case, Sergi Roberto stayed back, as a third central defender, while Jordi Alba pushed high up the pitch, with Messi as a false ‘9’; and Ansu Fati and Griezmann in open roles ahead of him. Suarez was not there, of course, and the Uruguayan centre forward will be out for the rest of the season. So it is likely that Setién will insist on sticking with this formula, unless the club bring in cover at number 9, which is not a certainty.

Granada's Carlos Fernandez (L) vies with Barcelona's French defender Samuel Umtiti.
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Granada's Carlos Fernandez (L) vies with Barcelona's French defender Samuel Umtiti.LLUIS GENEAFP

Barça: no changes in attack, improvements at the back

Regarding the game itself, Barça did not make any significant improvements in terms of attack: it was the usual case of Messi, Messi and more Messi, with a bit of Ansu Fati thrown in for good measure. At the back, on the other hand, we saw some notable improvements: there were none of the holes that had been seen lately and Ter Stegen was able to enjoy a quiet return.

Granada only created one clear chance: a flat shot against the post by Eteki that briefly silenced the Camp Nou. That came in the 66th minute, with the score still at 0-0. Soon after came the second yellow for Germán (undeserved in my opinion), the entrance of Riqui Puig, and Messi’s goal. (Carlos Pérez and Arthur would also get their minutes). Ultimately, Barça gave 1,002 passes and Messi scored a goal – and that was the game in a nutshell.