It wasn’t easy, but Barcelona secured a win in the first leg of their Copa del Rey tie against Cultural Leonesa on Wednesday.
Clement Lenglet scored the only goal of the game to hand Ernesto Valverde’s side the advantage ahead of the return fixture in early December.
Valverde made several changes to the team that hammered Real Madrid on Sunday. Barca B trio Juan Miranda, Chumi and Jorge Cuenca all started in defence.
It was an opportunity for the youngsters to experience first team action and they will be all the better for it.
The evening was just as important for two players who have struggled to make an impact this season.
Ousmane Dembele has failed to cement a spot in the starting line-up under Valverde, while Malcom has barely featured since arriving at the club in the summer.
The pair started against Leonesa, who play in the Segunda Division B, the third tier of Spanish football, and would have fancied their chances of leaving an impression on the Barcelona coach.
REACTION TO DEMBELE AND MALCOM DISPLAYS
But both failed to do so, and this has been picked up on by the Spanish media.
Marca branded the pair “two ghosts” for their displays, writing: “It is matches like this where Dembele, a World Cup winner with France, should be rising to the occasion.
“However, this further solidifies Valverde’s thinking with regard to these two players as they did nothing to warrant starting in Barcelona’s upcoming fixtures.
“Going forward, the Catalan side were very underwhelming as the quartet of Malcom, Dembele, Denis Suarez and Munir El-Haddadi failed to unwrap the defence of the home side in a match where they seemed to also lack effort, something that will frustrate Valverde.”
In their individual player ratings, Marca wrote about Dembele: “Pretty much anonymous. He was very withdrawn and lacked sharpness.
“Was as bad as all the other forwards.”
And on Malcom: “If he wants more, he has to do more. A lot more. He has put in a very average, disappointing performance.
“He has not played often yet, but after this game he could play even less.”
Thankfully for Barcelona, Lionel Messi has returned to training after breaking his arm in the 4-2 win against Sevilla.
Those behind him in the pecking order just aren’t doing enough to help the team right now.