Sergio Busquets played as a centre-back and Jeremy Mathieu scored an own goal in Barcelona’s 2-0 victory over Sporting CP on Tuesday.
Lionel Messi was rested for the second Champions League match in a row, the Argentine joining fellow first-teamers Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba on Barca’s bench.
That didn’t stop the Catalans from dominating Sporting, who needed to cause an upset at Camp Nou in order to give themselves a chance of reaching the last 16, and Paco Alcacer’s header was rounded off by Mathieu sliding into his own net.
Such was the Blaugrana’s control that they were able to move Busquets into central defence for the final 25 minutes, and Ernesto Valverde was encouraged by the results.
“I didn’t want to risk playing the whole game with our two centre-backs,” the Coach said after the game.
“That’s why I counted on Busquets when I took off Pique. He’s one of the solutions we have, in the event of an emergency.
“Vermaelen? He’s done very well and he plays just like he trains. He’s a very competitive player, he’s good going forward as he is defensively and brings the ball out well.
“Cillessen? He made an extraordinary save in the match. The truth is that we have two terrific goalkeepers, who save us at risky moments.
“Sporting CP were on par with us in the first half, but after that we had to take risks and found more space.
“Our idea is always to dominate the game and create chances. We’re obliged to take the initiative because we’re Barcelona.”
Barcelona 2-0 Sporting CP
Alcacer 59, Mathieu og 90
Barcelona: Cillessen; Semedo, Pique (Busquets 64), Vermaelen, Digne; Rakitic, Gomes, Denis; Vidal (Messi 61), Suarez (Paulinho 75), Alcacer
Sporting CP: Rui Patricio; Piccini, Coates, Mathieu, Ristovski (Martins 46); Battaglia, William; Bruno Cesar (Coentrao 64), Acuna, Bruno Fernandes; Alan Ruiz (Dost 46)
Referee: Thomson (SCO)