Much of Xavi Hernandez’s time in charge of Barcelona has seen stop-start results, with fans yet to see a clear blueprint of how the team can move forward, play and succeed in the coming months, yet green shoots started to appear in a swashbuckling 4-2 victory over Napoli on Thursday.
The result on the night saw Los Cules progress through to the next round of the Europa League by an aggregate scoreline of 5-3, with the attacking football on display by the Blaugrana being simply outstanding at times.
Buoyed by the presence of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in attack, Barcelona had a focal point through the middle and were able to counter-attack at speed.
Napoli were left stunned by Monday’s draw with Cagliari which saw them lose ground in the Serie A title race, and they never really hit any kind of form in the home match with their Spanish opponents.
Jordi Alba opened the scoring after eight minutes, with Frenkie de Jong adding a quite sublime second goal.
The Dutch midfielder picked the ball up around 30 yards away from goal and the Italian defence just let him run and run, until he had the freedom to curl a perfect shot into the top left corner of the net.
Napoli through they were back in the tie when they were awarded a penalty after 20 minutes, with Marc-Andre ter Stegen clumsily bringing down Victor Osimhen.
Lorenzo Insigne scored from the subsequent spot-kick, however Gerard Pique scored a wonderfully impressive technical goal in the final minute of the half to restore Barcelona’s two-goal advantage on the night.