Barcelona got their pre-season campaign underway this evening, taking on Gimnastic at Estadi Johan Cruyff and coming away with a strong 4-0 win.
Ronald Koeman fielded a youthful lineup with many of his first-teamers not yet back in full training, although he did include the likes of Sergino Dest, Gerard Pique and Sergi Roberto.
It was Rey Manaj, however, who got the blaugrana off the mark on the hour, the 24-year-old Barcelona B man from Albania letting rip with a golazo to give his team the lead.
Barcelona dominated possession, not much of a surprise given Gimnastic were reduced to ten men in the 38th minute after Alex Quintanilla Urionabarrenetxea saw a red card.
Alex Collado doubled Barcelona’s lead heading into the final five minutes, the promising youngster seeing his deflected effort steer past the goalkeeper after carrying it forward well.
Manaj popped up again in the 86th and 90th minutes to complete a remarkable hat-trick and put himself in the thoughts of all Barcelona fans – for tonight, at least.
“Everyone has come back well and we’ve trained hard,” Koeman said post-game in comments carried by Mundo Deportivo.
FULL TIME! pic.twitter.com/aqLWPPh5fe
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) July 21, 2021
“It’s our first game and we have to catch up physically. Everyone has been able to highlight their quality, especially the youngsters, although I won’t name names.
“It was a good game and I have to admit that it was strange to see fans back in the stadium, thankfully things are returning to normal.” It was Koeman’s first game with fans in attendance.
“It’s important that we’re going to have [the] other players [return], because we’ll have little time to train with the entire squad. It’s important to have good games against Stuttgart and Salzburg; they’ll be games of a higher level and an opportunity to discover how prepared we are.”