Attacking flair of Barca’s ‘Joãos:’ João Cancelo and João Félix provide Xavi with new solutions in the final third of the pitch

On September 1st, on transfer deadline day, FC Barcelona signed not one João but two. As the clock ticked down at the end of the summer window, the Catalan club secured the loan signing of right-back João Cancelo from Manchester City and another loan to bring in João Félix from Atlético de Madrid.

Both Portugal internationals made their Barça debuts just a couple of days later, coming off the bench to help Los Blaugrana secure a 2-1 victory away at CA Osasuna before the September international break. Then, this past Saturday, in Matchday 5 of LALIGA EA SPORTS, they were able to play in front of their new fanbase for the first time and put on a show at the Estadi Olímpic in a 5-0 victory over Real Betis. To defeat such a formidable opponent, one that has qualified for Europe three years in a row, by such a large scoreline is a testament to the attacking spectacle that FC Barcelona put together.

João Félix: The opening goal and the first glimpses of a connection with Lewandowski

João Félix was the leading conductor. The former Golden Boy winner started on the left of Xavi’s front three and was constantly on the ball, having more touches than any of his attacking colleagues. In the 25th minute of the first half, the 23-year-old opened the scoring in impressive style, doing well to control a cross from Oriol Romeu, evade goalkeeper Rui Silva, and finish from the tightest of angles.

Seven minutes later, João Félix created Barça’s second goal of the night with an action that won’t show up on the stats sheets but that wowed everyone watching. As Andreas Christensen brought the ball up the pitch, João Félix looked left and looked right, scanning the pitch just like his new coach Xavi used to do. That meant that when Christensen played a pass into the Portuguese’s feet, João Félix knew exactly where Robert Lewandowski was, so he let the ball run through him to catch out the Real Betis defense and set up the Polish striker for the second goal of the game. The assist officially goes to Christensen, but the ‘dummy assist’ was João Félix’s.

It already seems that João Félix can ensure Lewandowski isn’t left too isolated at the tip of FC Barcelona’s attack. His average position in the Real Betis game was closer to the No.9 than any player has been in any other game this season.

As the Portuguese forward stated afterward: “Positionally, everyone was where they needed to be. When you have a good structure and the ball circulates well and quickly, the spaces and goals appear. It’s important for Lewandowski to score goals because strikers need to score goals to gain confidence. He lives off that and the more goals he scores the better for us.”

João Cancelo: A clean sheet and the fifth goal of the game

As for João Cancelo, the 29-year-old started the match at right-back and was solid throughout the game against Los Verdiblancos. João Félix’s opening goal actually arrived after the full-back had recovered possession high up the pitch.

Later in the game, João Cancelo got on the scoresheet too, scoring the final goal to make it 5-0 with a perfect low drive following a confident dribble. That made this the first LALIGA EA SPORTS game in the 21st century in which two different Portuguese players both scored for FC Barcelona.

Xavi is delighted to have both these brilliant players at his disposal, for their quality and the way they can offer different kinds of solutions. As the coach put it after the game: “We’re talking here about two players whose individual quality is beyond doubt. You watch them train and you see their greatness. Physically, they are strong. They add to the quality of the team, which has been very good in general.”

MG Team

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