Having been eliminated from the Champions League following their 2-0 defeat to Atletico Madrid, Barcelona lost their 3rd straight league game at the weekend, the first time that has happened in 13 years. After going 35 games unbeaten in all competitions earlier in the season what has gone wrong for the Catalan giants?
Messi stopped scoring:
Regardless of how brilliant Neymar and Suarez are, Lionel Messi is still the main man and when his boots stop firing then whole team suffers. Barca’s poor run coincides with Messi’s worst goal drought for nearly 6 years although he did break that drought with a goal against Valencia in the 2-1 defeat. They will be hoping the little magician can now get back to business as usual.
It’s well known that while Catalonians are passionately tribal they are also of a fragile mindset and doubt is known to creep in after initial setbacks. While most of the players are not native Catalonians the club as whole will have started to question themselves following the 2-1 home defeat to Real Madrid which started the rot. Since then they have only won 1 game and that was a tight 2-1 win against 10 man Atletico. They need to regain their belief if they are to finish the season on a high.
The attacking trident of Neymar, Messi and Suarez has been hailed as been as good an attacking force as the game has ever seen and while that may well be the case, that trident has maybe been masking some real defensive issues within this Barca side. When you have 3 of the top 5 players in the world playing up front for you, you might have the tendency to not worry too much about what is going on behind them. Barca will feel that no matter how many the opposition score, with those 3 up front we’ll score more, but this mindset comes unstuck when the front 3 have a loss of form all at the same time which is what has happened. This situation has exposed Barca’s defence as being vulnerable and teams are going at them. As an attacking force, Dani Alves and Jordi Alba are wonderful wing backs but defensively they can be got at. Gerard Pique is a world class defender and in my opinion has carried Javier Mascherano for a while. Mascherano was a wonderful defensive midfielder for Liverpool and Argentina but as a center half I think he’s there for the taking and when Pique has a loss of form it highlights Mascherano’s deficiencies at center half.
Great XI but no squad:
Manager Luis Enrique didn’t use a substitute during the 2-1 defeat at the Nou Camp on Sunday which tells me he doesn’t think the guys on the bench have much to offer even when the team is losing at home. The first choice XI on their day are a wonderful side but when one or 2 run into a loss of from have they got any other options to be able to change things to stop the rot? It doesn’t appear so. Following Sunday’s defeat to Valencia Luis Enrique reacted angrily during the post match press conference to suggestions that he has a squad with no depth.
Can they turn it around?
With both Madrid clubs taking maximum points during Barca’s poor run in the league, the pressure is mounting on the Catalonians especially following the Champions League exit. Ironically the Champions League situation might work in their favor in the race for the La Liga title. Barca can now put more emphasis on La Liga, although they are still involved in the Copa Del Rey and have a tough tie against Sevilla but the Copa Del Rey doesn’t bring the pressure and intensity that the 2 Madrid clubs will face in the Champions League semi finals.
At some point all 3 of their superstar forwards will start scoring again but will the games have run out by then? We shall see.