The school of Barcelona detests the characterization of tiki-taka when discussing their style of play, so let’s just say that Barca passed the s*** out of Gladbach when the two teams met on Tuesday in the Champions League.
One of the reasons that this conception of zonal play is met with such derision from the likes of Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique is the fact that it denotes an attack devoid of entertainment and sterile in the extreme.
“I loathe all that passing for the sake of it, all that tiki-taka,” said Guardiola. “It’s so much rubbish and has no purpose. You have to pass the ball with a clear intention, with the aim of making it into the opposition’s goal. It’s not about passing for the sake of it.”
Against Gladbach on Tuesday, Barcelona set a Champions League record by attempting 993 passes and completing 903 of them according to Opta. Gladbach, in comparison, completed only 291. Factoring in Barca's time of possession and the amount of time the ball stayed in play and the Blaugrana were completing a pass every 2.9 seconds.
993 - Barcelona have attempted 993 passes vs Borussia, a record in a single UCL game since 2003/2004. Taka pic.twitter.com/TJHDIBUHIU— OptaJose (@OptaJose) December 6, 2016
With Gladbach firmly ensnared in their own half, Barca’s deployment of a 4-3-3 formation quickly transitioned into essentially two at the back. Javier Mascherano and Samuel Umtiti displayed their prowess as ball-playing center backs by combining on 71 passes, and Andre Gomes shielded the two with exceptional calmness, the 23-year-old Portuguese continuing his development as Barca’s next great midfield maestro.
Aleix Vidal bombed forward from right-back and Lucas Digne combined excellently in attack with Arda Turan on the left, turning all that possession and passing into four goals by the 67th minute.
Such was the absurdity of Barcelona’s style on the night that even Gladbach’s social media team couldn’t help but comment.
For Barca, the importance of the return of Andres Iniesta couldn’t be overstated. His movement and passing was vital in Lionel Messi’s opener and Turan’s hat-trick on the night.
Barcelona’s style isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, but it’s difficult to argue against a style that generates 68% of possession, eight shots on target and four goals in a Champions League match.