3 Points To Ponder: Why Barcelona beat Las Palmas

Coming off the 4-1 shellacking to Celta de Vigo, Barcelona were having questions asked of them. With everyone available for the first time in weeks, Luis Enrique had a decision to make. He could go with squad rotation again against a side in Las Palmas that like Levante last week, is expected to finish in the bottom-half of the La Liga table, or he could try to make a statement.

Las Palmas made their return to the Camp Nou for the first time in thirteen years, the last time they were in the top division in Spain. On that day in 2002, it was none other than Luis Enrique that scored in a 1-1 draw, and he would need to channel that goal and maybe a few more into his current squad to not only get the result, but to try to send the message that everything is still roses in Catalonia.

Similar to Celta de Vigo with Sergio Gomez and Nolito, Las Palmas also boasted a former Barcelona player, with Sergio Araujo leading the line and having scored seven goals with Barca B back in 2012/13.

Not to bury the lead, but Lionel Messi going down in the 10th minute with an injury to his MCL that will sideline him for the next seven to eight weeks is the first, second and third takeaway from this match. The loss of the talisman will be spoken about and analyzed for the forthcoming weeks, so for now, the focus will simply be on the match.

Here are three talking points from Barcelona's win over Las Palmas:

1. Suarez to the rescue

With Messi sidelined after gaining a free kick, Luis Suarez and Neymar immediately became the focal points of the attack. Though for the remaining 80 minutes, it appeared that Suarez could be the one to step into the role of first option and Neymar will do his part to play off him like he often does with the Argentine. 

Barcelona’s passing wasn’t at its usual supreme level, but Suarez was clearly the man for whom a multitude of forward passes were intended. The Uruguayan had three shots, two of which resulted in goals. The first was a difficult header against two defenders on a cross and the second was a one-man show. One thing is certain, Suarez was the man at Liverpool, and while Neymar and the midfield do take some of the pressure off him, Suarez is the man in the attack once more.

2. Youngsters up to snuff

Munir and Sergi Roberto both had quite possibly their best appearances of the season. While Suarez still had much to do on the header, Munir’s backheel to free up Sergi Roberto, again deputizing at right-back for Dani Alves, was a sign of confidence that the young forward hasn’t shown much of this season. 

Sergi Roberto did his part, taking the ball on the right wing and pinpointing the head of Suarez. A run in the second half where he cut in from out wide to create space for Munir showed a willingness to take chances that the midfielder turned defender doesn’t always display when he is trying to control the center of the field. 

Munir’s performance wasn’t perfect by any means, and he was himself substituted for Sandro late in the contest. Yet if Munir were able to polish some of the decision-making outside the box and turn the opportunities his speed creates into accurate crosses or shots on net, the 20-year-old could help alleviate a fraction of the newfound pressure on Suarez and Neymar.

3. Regulars struggle

Once again, Cules were left feeling that Ter Stegen could have done more on the Las Palmas’ goal scored late by Jonathan Viera that brought the match back into question. It’s calming to know that Claudio Bravo will return soon to potentially right the ship in La Liga so the young German can focus solely on the Champions League, but ter Stegen still seems out of sorts.

The goalkeeper wasn’t the only regular at fault however on the goal, as it was an unlikely giveaway by Javier Mascherano that opened things up for the Canaries. Mascherano and Sergio Busquets got the start in midfield together, and whether it was tired legs or a lack of continuity, neither player looked like themselves in their passing.

The work-rate and tackling was present, but the lack of Andres Iniesta looked apparent when connecting the ball between the defense and attack.

By Dan Hilton, columnist at Barcablog. Follow him on Twitter @HiltonD13