Why fit-again Araujo could be Barcelona’s difference-maker in La Liga’s title race

The Uruguay centre-back made his return from harm in midweek, after three months out, and can bolster a fragile Blaugrana backline.

Intercity’s Aaron Pinan appeared sure to attain. He had, by most measures, carried out all the pieces proper.

The striker evaded two defenders, rounded Barcelona’s keeper, and created a manageable angle to fit the ball into the web.

However as he poked the ball goalward, it was met by a sliding Ronald Araujo, who amused Pinan’s effort out for a nook.

It was the second of Araujo’s main contributions to the sport as Barcelona edged Intercity within the Copa Del Rey spherical of 32 on Wednesday evening.

The fit-again centre-back, making his first look in simply over three months, was his facet’s standout performer.

In addition to stopping a sure purpose by clearing Pinan’s shot off the road, he scored with a towering header inside 4 minutes and dominated within the air defensively earlier than being substituted after an hour.

His efficiency, although it got here in opposition to lowly opposition, confirmed simply how important his presence is to Barca’s backline, and highlighted why he simply is perhaps the difference-maker of their Liga title problem.

“I am very comfortable to have him again. He is a warrior,” Xavi mentioned in his post-match press convention.

Araujo had been sidelined since September 26 with an adductor tear and through his time on the sidelines, his absence was noticeable.

With out the 23-year-old, Barcelona typically lacked management and proved susceptible to errors, particularly in middle of defence.

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Gerard Pique, far previous his finest, was unreliable, and finally retired from soccer in October. Eric Garcia could not keep match and has made solely 9 Liga appearances thus far.

The web consequence was Marcos Alonso deputising at centre-back and that experiment didn’t go nicely as illustrated by the foolish penalty he granted in opposition to Espanyol final week as Barcelona dropped factors in opposition to their metropolis rivals.

Certainly, as Barcelona battled their solution to the highest of the desk earlier than the break for the 2022 World Cup, their solely dependable centre-back was Jules Kounde, who has struggled with knocks of his personal this season.

It will be troublesome, then, to overstate the importance of Araujo’s return to health.

The Uruguay worldwide has been a fixture in Barcelona’s facet for practically two seasons now. He was an everyday final 12 months, taking part in each centre-back and right-back, proving equally helpful at each positions.

He began 36 of 43 video games, and 25 of 30 La Liga contests – solely coming off the bench when recovering from the occasional harm.

In fact, he was one of many few gamers to flourish below Xavi, steadily creating right into a high-quality, all-round defender regardless of his youth.

His stats over the previous 12 months are definitely spectacular. Araujo has a move completion share of 88.5 %, rating within the eightieth percentile amongst center-backs, and 99th amongst full-backs, per fbref.

His 2.09 aerial duels received per 90 minutes is regular at centre-back, however within the 97th percentile for full-backs. He is a powerful one-on-one defender, too, profitable 88 per cent of his tackles from him to date this season.

However it’s, maybe, the person moments which have dazzled probably the most.

Ronald Araujo Barcelona Copa del Rey 2022-23Getty

One instantly thinks of the slide-tackle on Alfonso Davies to stop a sure purpose within the Champions League final 12 months. And the thumping header to salvage some extent in opposition to Sevilla. For a Barca facet enduring the oddest of occasions, such interventions have been important.

And now, Araujo ought to show much more essential to the Catalan trigger.

Robert Lewandowski could also be suspended for the following three video games however Xavi’s backline is again at one thing near full energy.

Andreas Christensen has seized the alternatives he has been given, whereas Kounde has returned from Qatar having maintained his high-quality membership type at worldwide stage with France.

However on the middle of all of it lies Araujo. The Uruguayan can be utilized at a number of positions, and has the backing of his supervisor.

Good within the air and dependable in a deal with, he hits the entire fundamentals, with a penchant for the spectacular thrown in. He’s not like every other defender in Xavi’s squad.

Barcelona face a tough few months. They lead La Liga solely on purpose distinction and have drawn a resurgent Manchester United within the Europa League.

Such is their fragile monetary scenario that they may possible want to achieve the ultimate of the continental competitors as a way to enhance the squad this summer time.

It is an effort that may require greater than only one participant. However Araujo, along with his versatility, power, aerial energy and slide-tackles, might be a very powerful of all.

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