MADRID, Spain, December 7 – A fledging Barcelona side showed what the reigning Champions League winners have in reserve as they swept aside BATE Borisov 4-0 in a relaxed atmosphere at the Nou Camp with first place in Group H already assured.
An away win against AC Milan at the San Siro assured the Catalan first place and with the first Clasico in La Liga coming up this weekend against Real Madrid, who have a three-point lead and a game in hand, coach Pep Guardiola chose to blood his youngsters and rest his star players for the challenge at the Bernabeu.
Although Viktoria Plzen drew 2-2 at home to AC Milan anyway, BATE were outclassed and never appeared capable of winning a game that potentially could have seen them finish third and qualify for a place in the Europa League.
Still, it took Barca until ten minutes before half time for Sergi Roberto to put them ahead and then after the break Martin Montoya and a Pedro Rodriguez double, the second from the penalty spot, gave them an easy win.
“In the future the club will depend on these youth players and they have a lot of quality. I can’t say exactly how things will work out but the club has worked hard to renew the contracts of players like Marc Bartra, Juan Cuenca and Sergi Roberto,” said Guardiola.
“A lot of these players lost to Elche last week and they know that game was demanding while playing in this atmosphere which is so calm is easy. It is difficult to go to second division sides and perform at that level.”
BATE coach Viktor Goncharenko believes that this crop of Barca players can emulate the success of the first team in the future.
“They have the same type of football and have some very strong players. Clearly the level of (Lionel) Messi and Xavi (Hernandez) is very high but these players can reach that level,” he said. “For us to qualify for the Champions League was a big achievement but it is a pity we did not get any further. It has been a difficult season for us and we have not been as well prepared as we would have liked to have been.”
They may have been different faces but there was no doubting it was the Barcelona style from a side which included just six players from the first team. Of the starting eleven, nine had been brought through the youth system and it was evident from their passing and domination of the ball.
After defeat by Plzen in their last match BATE’s chances of finishing third were left hanging by a thread and they went to the Nou Camp for their final match three points adrift at the bottom.
If they felt that they would be able to take advantage of their youthful opponents the opening exchanges will have put them right. Rafinha Alcantara finished off a move from the kick off with a shot from a tight angle which was parried by the keeper for a corner.
Barca had complete control as BATE set their stall out to defend deeply and hope their dangerous Brazilian Renan Bressan could conjure up something on the counter-attack.
BATE have proved difficult to break down on their travels and while Barcelona had virtually continual possession in the midfield it was difficult for them to create clear cut chances as BATE had so many players behind the ball.
Barcelona were closing in on the BATE goal, though, with Sergi Roberto sliding a cross narrowly wide and then finally after 35 minutes they made the breakthrough with Roberto again firing a right-footed shot into the corner.
After the break Barcelona continued to probe and Montoya surged forward from defence to latch onto a Cuenca pass and finish clinically on the hour mark and in so doing score his first senior goal.
As BATE sought damage limitation Barca’s youngsters were keen for more and Pedro cheekily flicked in a Cuenca cross. Then in the final minutes it was Cuenca who was upended for Pedro to score his second of the night from the penalty spot.