Miami Gardens, FL – Last night saw a Lionel Messi-less FC Barcelona, fresh off the Antoine Griezmann signing take on a very dangerous SSC Napoli squad from the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, FL. As an admitted FC Barcelona supporter, I wish I could say that Barça dominated the match from beginning to end, but SSC Napoli matched up pretty evenly against the reigning La Liga champions. Truth be told, new Barça goalkeeper, Neto kept the Serie A runners-up at bay by making some pretty amazing blocks. It was only a matter of time before the Blaugrana’s offense capitalized off of Napoli’s missed opportunities.
Antoine Griezmann, now sporting the #17 for Barcelona, made his presence felt early and often, connecting with Luis Suarez on various attempts early in the half. Although Le Petit Prince wasn’t able to capitalize, he showed flashes of brilliance, including a shot from outside the 18 that Napoli keeper, Alex Meret was able to keep from finding the back of the net. After the match, Suarez was asked about Greizmann’s assimilation to the squad. El Pistolero said, “Obviously he’s a great player, and there’s a reason he’s at Barcelona, a World Cup champion. He just needs to adapt to the game of Barcelona, which is not easy. Every player has trouble in the beginning, but well, he is a very smart player and we expect him to adapt very quickly.” It’ll be fun watching the 28-year-old find his groove in Catalunia.
Before heading to the stadium, I was having a conversation with my Lemon City Live podcast co-host, Edwin “Larry Fresh” Garcia and our good friend, and fellow Barça aficionado, Pablo “bien o no?!” He mentioned that Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic are both under-appreciated. What a way to foreshadow what was to come. In the 38th minute, Busquets received the ball from Riqui Puig (who looks like he should still be playing in La Masia) at the top of the 18 and perfectly bent it around Meret to open up the game, as well as the crowd’s roars. However, four minutes later Junior Firpo blew coverage on José Callejón, who sent the ball inside and was capitalized off a Samuel Umtiti own-goal. In the second half, Rakitic found a rebounded ball at the top of the 18 and sent a rocket into the back of the net. That’s all Barça would need to secure the 2-1 win in 1st leg of the 2019 International Leagues Cup (a made-up trophy for this two-leg series between Barcelona and Napoli) in front of 57,062 fans in Miami, FL.
In the postgame interviews, Suarez, when asked if Barça could use Neymar, who is speculated to return to the Blaugrana, gave off somewhat of a sarcastic shrug before saying that Neymar “is one of the best players in the world.” Barcelona, without Messi, and with Greizmann still adapting to Barça’s style still looks hella dangerous. Imagine if that feared MSN of Messi, Suarez, and Neymar got the band together, but also added Greizmann to the mix. What would you name that feared quartet? Regardless of their name, that sweet chin music would be a sight to see.
Next up, both squads will face each other again, this Saturday, August 10th, at 5 PM from Michigan Stadium.
Photo Credit | Edwin Garcia