Barcelona supervisor Xavi spent his crew’s match at Almeria making a sequence of gestures that regularly progressed by means of anger and frustration in direction of outright despair.
“Do you suppose going out of Europe may have an effect on the crew in different competitions?” The Athletic had requested the supervisor at his pre-game press convention.
“We will attempt to not let it,” Xavi replied. “We’ve to alter our mindset, suppose that in La Liga we’re very properly positioned, that we’re in an excellent dynamic. We’ve to win, it’s a troublesome place to go, many groups have misplaced there…”
Talking after Sunday’s shock 1-0 La Liga defeat, he was extra direct together with his phrases.
“It actually pisses me off as a result of it was a day to take an necessary step and we failed,” he mentioned. “We’ve no excuses. I apologise to the followers. We missed a golden alternative.”
That golden alternative was the possibility to go 10 factors clear on the prime of the league. Actual Madrid’s 1- 1 draw in opposition to Atletico de Madrid on Saturday had given them the possibility to take action.
Followers had been anticipating an uncomplicated match, one through which Barca would relaxation a couple of gamers, get the job executed and return house with an elevated benefit over their solely real looking rivals for the title. It will be the proper solution to put together for the subsequent Clasico of the season, Thursday’s Copa del Rey semi-final first leg in Madrid.
When the ultimate whistle got here it was Almeria’s followers celebrating within the stands. Their crew had overwhelmed Barcelona for the primary time within the membership’s historical past, claiming three important factors of their battle in opposition to relegation.
Barcelona’s Ronald Araujo reveals his frustration throughout Sunday’s 1-0 defeat (Photograph: Jorge Guerrero/AFP by way of Getty Photos)
That very same pleasure was written throughout the faces of gamers and employees, who took selfies to recollect the event. Among the many crestfallen Barca gamers there was a really totally different temper. Robert Lewandowski was the one one to take his time in leaving the pitch, applauding the followers who had travelled.
The ghost of Thursday’s Europa League defeat by Manchester United, yet one more disappointment on the continent for Barca, appeared to hold over the entire facet.
This example shouldn’t be completely new. Final season, they skilled the same slump after Eintracht Frankfurt knocked them out of the Europa League. The crew had been in good kind; they’d gone from trying like they weren’t even going to qualify for the Champions League firstly of the season, to dreaming of pushing Actual Madrid for the league title.
Then, 4 days after struggling European elimination, they misplaced at house to Cadiz 1-0. That is what Xavi mentioned after that sport: “We’re pissed off. We’ve missed a golden alternative.”
The comparisons don’t finish there. Between the 2 conditions there may be one other widespread denominator: Pedri. The Canary Islander was injured within the second leg of the tie in opposition to Eintracht Frankfurt final season and missed the remainder of the marketing campaign. This 12 months he was injured within the first leg in opposition to Manchester United and will be unavailable till mid-March no less than.
After going out of Europe final season, Barca received solely half of their eight remaining matches within the league, struggling defeats in opposition to Cadiz, Rayo Vallecano and Villarreal at Camp Nou, and drawing away to Getafe. They received 13 factors from a potential 24, and completed 13 factors behind Madrid.
When Pedri is out, the crew suffers. Of the three matches he has missed since struggling his damage this season, Barca have misplaced two.
What does Pedri’s damage imply for Barcelona earlier than an important run of video games?
In opposition to Almeria on Sunday they produced their worst first half of the entire season. They appeared unable to supply any moments of hazard from the wing and had been gradual with the ball within the center. Unable to interrupt their opponents down, the crew restricted itself to hanging balls into the field again and again again in what turned out to be a meaningless train.
In line with Opta, Barca made 47 crosses, their highest report in an away league sport since 2005-06, with solely 9 of them profitable. They haven’t received any of the 5 video games through which they’ve crossed so many occasions within the competitors, drawing 3 times and shedding twice.
After the match at Outdated Trafford on Thursday, Xavi mentioned that “if they’d had Pedri or Gavi possibly the second half would have been totally different”. At Almeria they’d Gavi however there was nonetheless virtually no inside play, no pace within the circulation of the ball in the course of the pitch. That’s why the supervisor determined to carry on 19-year-old Pablo Torre, for what was simply his second league look.
Torre took benefit of the chance. His entrance, and that of 18-year-old ahead Angel Alarcon, modified the face of the crew. In quarter-hour, Torre received the ball again twice and made 13 interceptions, impressing together with his passing, too. Alarcon produced Barca’s solely shot heading in the right direction, within the 82nd-minute.
There are clearly issues. Barca are lacking Pedri, they’re lacking Ousmane Dembele, and Lewandowski shouldn’t be producing his finest to this point in 2023. The Pole scored 12 targets in 14 La Liga video games earlier than the World Cup, however has solely added two within the six matches since.
“We’ve observed the damage and tear of the journeys and the downturn of being eradicated in Europe,” Xavi mentioned after Sunday’s sport. “To win this league now we have to alter the eagerness, the will.
“We didn’t present depth or the will to win and that’s what worries me probably the most.”
Barca do nonetheless have a seven-point lead within the league. Xavi will be urging for calm, and for the crew to point out their finest again of their subsequent journey, to the Santiago Bernabeu. However Thursday’s match now takes on an excellent better significance. It may go an extended solution to figuring out how deep their issues actually are.
(High photograph: Aitor Alcalde/Getty Photos)