Lionel Messi was outstanding in the inside right channel as our Champions League clash finished Tottenham 2-4 Barcelona at Wembley Stadium.
Spurs received a lesson of what happens when you leave the game’s best player in space. Lionel Messi dominated this Champions League tie from the inside right channel as it finished Tottenham 2-4 Barcelona at Wembley Stadium.
Lionel Messi in the inside right channel
Both choices hurt us inside of two minutes. Victor Wanyama was caught pressing way too high and out of the defensive structure. Sergio Busquets could receive the ball in acres of space, turn and pick his pass.
Busquets found Lionel Messi who had set himself up in the inside right channel. Busquet’s pass took Harry Winks out of the game. Messi now had acres of space between the Tottenham lines of defence and midfield.
Messi could lift his head a play a classic Barcelona pass. Picking the space between opposition centre and full back for an overlapping runner to receive.
Jordi Alba was the target as Messi’s perfectly weighted ball found him.
We then compounded our initial mistakes. Hugo Lloris came needless racing out, sliding past Alba, which opened up the whole goal for Philippe Coutinho to lash home. One-nil to Barcelona from over-excited errors by two of Spurs returning players.
Spurs space between the lines
Lionel Messi had time and space to pick his pass due to the space between the lines. The errant positioning of Victor Wanyama and Harry Winks caused this room. Both players were pushing up too high, creating separation with our back four. A huge area for Barcelona to play in was therefore often created.
A goal up, Barcelona added a second as Messi drifted in to this space once again.
Messi’s flighted pass picked out Luis Suarez’s chest. Philippe Coutinho took the ball down, but sliced his shot straight up in the air. Coutinho then spun and volleyed a pass back to the edge of the box. A blind pass, but he must’ve known there would be a trailer. There was. Ivan Rakitic arrived on cue to masterfully score one of the goals of the season.
More Messi mischief in the inside right channel
Spurs had made some small alterations. Harry Kane was moved to a number ten position to try and gain more control around Sergio Busquets and Arthur. The change pushed Son Heung-Min up top in a number nine position.
What’s more, at half time, Mauricio Pochettino ordered the team to press much higher. As a result, mistakes and sloppy turnovers led to Lionel Messi twice hitting the post from the inside right channel.
60 seconds were on the second half clock when Messi raced free for his first effort. Victor Wanyama made a sloppy bouncing pass in to Son Heung-Min. Poor control by Son allowed Sergio Busquets to whisk the ball away and immediately find Messi in the inside right channel.
Messi had acres of space between the lines to control the ball, run at our centre backs, but rung his shot off the post.
Five minutes later, a carbon copy ensued. Davinson Sanchez gave Victor Wanyama a difficult bouncing ball to control this time. Wanyama couldn’t and coughed up possession to Luis Suarez. Messi was in space in the inside right channel once more. Suarez found him and Messi struck the same post.
Tottenham attack the full backs
One thing Mauricio Pochettino would’ve learnt from Barcelona 2-2 Tottenham in preseason was the Catalan team’s vulnerability to quick transitions at the full back zones. Barcelona’s full backs are incredibly attack-minded and the space they leave can be got at after turnovers.
Spurs scored twice by attacking these zones in that preseason match. Harry Kane got us on the score sheet by doing the same here.
Left back Jordi Alba was caught out first. Hugo Lloris recognised that Alba was forward in attack. Lloris immediately threw the ball out to Erik Lamela in the space Alba had left.
Lamela interchanged passes with Lucas Moura. This play dragged Barcelona’s other defenders towards this flank. Space was thus created for Harry Kane outside the other full back, Nelson Samedo.
Kane had recognised this and pulled away from Samedo. As the right back tried to recover, Kane faked to shoot, jinked back inside and curled the ball past the despairing dive of Ter Stegen. Spurs back in the game.
Messi inside right channel masterclass
Messi had just hit he post for the second time and the irritation on his face was there for all to see. He responded by finding space between the lines in the inside right channel once more. The pocket was tiny, but it was all he needed.
The position of Victor Wanyama was once more called in to question. Messi had initial space behind Harry Winks. Toby Alderweireld didn’t want to get drawn out and leave the back door open. Wanyama needed to pick up Messi, but instead left his next run untracked.
Messi spread the play again with a pass through the channel between centre and full back for an overlapping runner. Jordi Alba ran on to it once more. Fantastic fakes followed from both Coutinho and Suarez before Messi arrived to cushion the ball in to the net. A brilliantly worked classic Barcelona goal.
As the move played out Eric Dier waited on the sideline to be introduced for the flagging Victor Wanyama. His arrival was just too late to stop Barcelona creating separation in the score line.
Tottenham didn’t lie down and showed tremendous spirit to get back in to the game. Tottenham’s level of pressing had been a fluctuating feature throughout.
Initially going full press, we then backed off and pressed the ball entering the middle third with Harry Kane as a number ten. After half time we went back to a full press again and this almost saw our undoing as Messi twice struck the post. However, it did get us back in to the game at Tottenham 2-3 Barcelona.
Harry Kane closed down and stripped possession away from Clement Lenglet. Erik Lamela then received the ball and fired a shot that deflected off Lenglet and past the helpless Ter Stegen.
Spurs had the momentum and almost pulled off one of the club’s most remarkable comebacks. Barcelona’s intensity dropped and the midfield duo of Eric Dier and Harry Winks took control.
The big chance arrived once more through attacking the space behind the Barcelona full backs. Eric Dier and Ben Davies’ one-touch passing found Lucas Moura sneaking beyond right back Nelson Samedo.
Moura jinked back inside, found a window of daylight and unleashed a rasping shot. However, Lenglet stretched out a long leg and deflected Moura’s goal bound shot out for a corner.
Messi ends the game
Lucas Moura’s well-worked chance was Tottenham’s best opportunity to get back on level terms. Lionel Messi then put the game to bed at Tottenham 2-4 Barcelona as he was given the freedom of the inside right channel once more.
Lionel Messi’s effort, combined with Tottenham defensive errors, gifted him the goal. Spurs initially lost the ball and Messi jinked his way out of pressure down the touchline. A battle ensued with Toby Alderweireld that saw both players contesting feverishly for the ball. Alderweireld won the throw, but then the errors started.
Hugo Lloris tried to play out from the back with Barcelona pressing, which was the first mistake. Kieran Trippier was under pressure when he sent a looping, bouncing pass in to Moussa Sissoko. The one player that has a poor touch under pressure is Sissoko. He was easily shrugged off the ball as he tried to control it with his chest.
As this was progressing, Lionel Messi had snuck in to the acres of space in the inside right channel. He had the time and freedom to pick his spot as the ball arrived at his feet, courtesy of another Luis Suarez dummy. Messi made no mistake this time as he slotted the ball home to ice the game at Tottenham 2-4 Barcelona.
Messi aptly finished the game with a goal from channel from where he had dictated the whole match.
Tottenham 2-4 Barcelona overall
We got a number of things wrong in this game, but our spirit to keep plugging away kept us in the match until the 90th minute.
As showed in preseason and here, Barcelona are fallible to teams who attack the space that their full backs leave. A lesson for the return at the Nou Camp should we still be in contention and need points in the last Champions League group game.
Individual errors and poor decisions made for a huge part of gifting Barcelona three of their four goals. However, Lionel Messi put on a masterclass as he found space and dictated the match from the inside right channel.
Final score: Tottenham 2-4 Barcelona.
MOTM: Lionel Messi.