Barca Beat Ferencvaros Without Messi In Champions League

Barcelona’s French midfielder Antoine Griezmann (L) celebrates scoring with his team-mates during the UEFA Champions League football match Ferencvaros TC v FC Barcelona in Budapest on December 2, 2020. Attila KISBENEDEK / AFP

 

Antoine Griezmann struck for the third game running as Barcelona beat Ferencvaros 3-0 on Wednesday to keep their 100 percent record intact in this season’s Champions League group stage.

Ronald Koeman again rested Lionel Messi with qualification for the last 16 already assured, and Barca made it five wins from five in Group G with an impressive performance in Budapest.

France striker Griezmann has struggled to find his best form since joining from Atletico Madrid almost 18 months ago, but the 29-year-old appears belatedly to be hitting his stride under Koeman.

While Barca lag 10 points off the pace in Spain, albeit with games in hand, the Catalans can complete a perfect group-stage campaign for the first time since 2002-03 with victory at home to Juventus next week.

They will finish top of the section if they avoid defeat.

“We played well. We’ve won five matches out of five, playing some good football and scoring quite a few goals. I hope we can continue this run in the league,” Koeman told Movistar.

“We saw that we have a very good team. We were able to rest several players, but those who played showed we have the expertise.”

Despite the absence of Messi, goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Philippe Coutinho and injured pair Gerard Pique and Ansu Fati, a heavily rotated Barca ripped the Hungarian champions apart in the opening half-hour.

Griezmann’s clever back-heel flick from a Jordi Alba cross set the visitors on their way 14 minutes into a freezing night at the Puskas Arena.

Martin Braithwaite soon poked in a second from a similar position following an Ousmane Dembele assist, capping a 33-pass move with his fourth goal in three games.

Dembele crashed home a penalty after Braithwaite was upended by Abraham Frimpong, with Koeman withdrawing Alba and Sergio Busquets at half-time and giving some playing time to youngsters Carles Alena, Riqui Puig and Konrad de la Fuente.

AFP

We Knew Fabregas Was An Important Player – Mourinho

MourinhoJose Mourinho has praised the impact made by Cesc Fabregas early on in the Spanish midfielder’s Chelsea career.

The former Barcelona man only joined up with his new team-mates in July, as the team headed for their European training camp, but already his quality seems apparent.

Two goals during pre-season, a stunning free-kick against Vitesse Arnhem, followed by a wonderful individual effort against Ferencvaros, preceded a man-of-the-match performance during Monday’s 3-1 win at Burnley, which was capped by the disguised pass to tee up Andre Schurrle for Chelsea’s second goal on the night.

“We knew Fabregas was an important player from the moment we tried to buy him,” said Mourinho.

“Our team already had a structure and a way of playing on the pitch, but we knew we clearly needed that kind of midfield player and a striker who could play with his back to the goal, hold the ball and associate with the different attacking players. That would make us a different team, not just in terms of results but especially in relation to the style of play.

“Cesc has been important for us, everybody knows how good he is, he was already good as a kid, he disappeared from us for three years but he’s back at a fantastic age so I think we enjoy him and he enjoys playing in the Premier League.”

Mourinho also addressed the mood of another new signing, Diego Costa, after the striker was booked for simulation at Turf Moor when replays showed he had been brought down by goalkeeper, Tom Heaton, during the first half.

“Diego is upset because he’s been behaving extremely well,” explained the Portuguese. “He thought it was going to be a penalty and a red card for the keeper, then suddenly it’s a free-kick and a yellow card for him, so he was disappointed.

“But, I know Michael Oliver and the linesman know it was an unfair decision, so let’s move on.”

Meanwhile, the manager hasn’t given Petr Cech a personal explanation for his decision to start Thibaut Courtois in goal ahead the more experienced Cech, but insisted the overall needs of the team have to take priority.

“If I speak with him then I have to speak with everybody, I never did this in my career,” he said. “I don’t feel I have to speak with them [the players] about my decisions. The club is not under my control but the team is, and everything I do is for the best of the team.

“What I always tell them is that they know where my office is, they know where I am and if they need an explanation I never close the door. Petr didn’t come to see me, he’s worked fantastically well as always. He’s with his mates, he’s been polite, professional and that’s what we need.

“Obviously I have no problem playing him in any match, it doesn’t matter when or in which competition, I’m so confident in him. If I decide to rotate when we have an accumulation of matches it’s probably the easiest position to do it. As I said, we have two of the three best goalkeepers in the world.

“Sometimes people say a player is experienced or not experienced because of his age, but you can be 22 and still have a lot of experience,” explained the Blues boss.

“Courtois has played in the biggest matches you can play in; the World Cup, Champions League final and semi-final, UEFA Cup final and semi-final, big matches against Barcelona and Real Madrid, local derbies, Super Cup.

“Obviously he knows he has to perform but I think he can cope with that because he’s very experienced,” Mourinho told chelseafc.com.