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The night is the darkest right before dawn

Nassif Ali



Header Image by Peter Schatz / Pool / UEFA

It was humiliation for Barça in the hands of Bayern Munich, such a nightmarish night should not be forgotten but rather used to build a brighter future.

There are moments in life when you wish you weren’t right. You push your instincts and gut feelings away hoping you are just being paranoid. And then the truth hits you. The realisation that “I knew this was coming”, is the worst. I think this pretty much sums up what many culés felt last night.

Let’s face it; there were no shockers here. Barcelona did not go to this game with a three-goal advantage unlike the last two times when they crashed out of this tournament. This time, they were going to face a team that was in its peak form. They were going to face a team that has been working like a well-oiled machine. All this while Barça themselves have been in the exact opposite trajectory for some time. So, if anyone was hoping and praying for miracles before this game, it was the Barça faithful. But that’s the thing; this team has not produced miracles or magic in a long time.

Don’t get me wrong, Barça still has the best player in the world in its ranks. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. But the man is tired. He has been carrying this team on his own for far too long, just as he had had to carry his national side. But this is a team game; there is only so much an individual can do –– even an individual as inhumanely talented as Lionel Messi.

Gerard Piqué Barça Bayern Munich humiliation

Shock for something many could see coming | Photo by Rafael Marchante / Pool / AFP via Getty Images

The failure of this team as a unit has been made evident by the manner in which they have exited European tournaments in the last couple of years. The writing has already been there on the wall for some time. Bayern Munich were merely exposing these cracks that were already there –– the cracks that run wide and deep beyond the squad or the coaching staff. If anything, this loss makes it impossible for the people up top to hide those cracks anymore.

How can you explain a team being in this situation after having spent over 500 million in the last three seasons? How many of those investments were available for last night’s debacle? How many quality academy players have they let go of cheap during this time? How many young talents have they bought and sold recklessly? The Barcelona board under the leadership –– or lack thereof –– of Josep Maria Bartomeu has a lot of questions to answer. If only he had the guts to do the right thing, he would step down taking responsibility and bring forth the elections. There is already a no-confidence motion brewing up against him, as it is.

“Disgrace is the word. You can’t compete like that. It’s not the first, second or third time this has happened to us. The club needs changes. I’m not talking about the coach or the players. I don’t want to single out anybody, the team structurally. I’m the first person to step forward. If new blood has to come in and the dynamic has to change, I will be the first person to leave because I think we have hit rock bottom”

Gerard Piqué

Whether the elections are around the corner or not, there needs to be changes – in personnel, in approach and in mentality. Just as Gerard Piqué said after the game, the lesson has to be learnt and changes have to be made. It is not going to be easy considering we are still in a year where the economy is hit by the global pandemic. But Barcelona will have to find a way to revitalize themselves without breaking the banks. The best part, as far as they are concerned though, is that they have almost all the tools required available free of cost at the academy. May be what they really need at the moment, is a manager, who is bold enough to ring in the necessary changes and trust in the youth. In that sense, this loss might come as a much needed clarion call for those at the helm to wake up from their delusion that reckless and high-priced purchases will get them a quality team.

NB: However much painful the loss was, it has to be remembered that we are talking about a group of human beings –– a group that has toiled through a variety of turbulences throughout the season. None of them deserve to be personally attacked, abused, or insulted. This is something we should bear in our minds while we criticise. They may have hit the rock bottom, but the only way left now is upwards. After all, the night is the darkest right before dawn.

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In my thirty years filled with accidental decisions - that got me as far as a PhD in history - one deliberate constant has been football. I have been an avid fan of the beautiful game since the 1998 world cup. Back then, in India, following football meant reading about it rather than watching it. I owe much of my love of the game and passion for writing about it, to those fantastic sports journalists and writers who could recreate the excitement of the whole game in a few succinct words.



Glass half full: 30 gameweeks to go for Barcelona

Alexandre Patanian



Photo via Imago

Barcelona have endured the worst start to a season this century, and even a top 4 finish seems unlikely the way things stand right now. However, with 30 gameweeks still on the calendar, fans must not lose hope.

Rebuilding is a colossal task in football. It might take decades for a fallen giant to go back to their best. Even the mighty Liverpool from the ’80s fell so low that they were unable to win the Premier League for 30 years.

In 2020, it is Barcelona’s turn to experiment with such disappointing outcomes. After years of immense success, followed by a lot of failures, Barça now find themselves as Europe’s and Spain’s laughing stock. The petulant Catalans from ten years ago who won everything are now long gone and only a few are left. From that bunch, only Lionel Messi, Gerard Piqué and Sergio Busquets remain.

These three superstars have experienced their club’s worst start to the season ever. Three losses in eight games, only eleven points on the board, it is fair to assume that the Catalans are in crisis.

Barcelona have already lost some crucial games such as the Atletico Madrid or the Real Madrid fixtures. Ronald Koeman’s 4-2-3-1 has not worked miracles, and the Catalans now find themselves under so much pressure.

The start of the term has left many Culés wondering how the season will fare. As it stands, with three wins out of a possible eight, Barcelona have endured their worst start to a season in the 21st century, winning just three games out of a possible eight.

They have managed to outplay some opponents so far, including Juventus, Real Betis and Villarreal among others, often stumble over themselves, for example, this weekend against Atletico Madrid. The giants were taken aback as it was one of the first times they entered a game as the underdogs. The underwhelming performance from the team in yellow disappointed more than one Culé.

This was Diego Simeone’s first win against Barcelona in the league, but that was far from the takeaway. Barcelona currently sit 12 points below leaders Real Sociedad in 12th place, and no team in the league has managed to overcome that deficit to win the league after eight gameweeks.

It is only normal to feel hopeless about the Catalan outfit’s chances to lift the trophy. If Barcelona manage to get close to the top spot this season, it would be one of their greatest achievement.

Nonetheless, Culés should stop feeling sad about themselves. They could see the glass half full and think about the title in another way.

Their side has only played eight games. They have played two games less than La Real and could still shake things up; the league is never certain. Even when Barça have comfortable leads like in 2016, other teams manage to pull their weight and come close. Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid came incredibly close to stealing the title in 2016 for example, finishing just a point below the Garnet and Blue champs.

It is okay to feel pessimistic about Barça these days, but they still have players who can make the difference. They still have Leo Messi, although unhappy, through their ranks, for example. Not to mention Ousmane Dembele seems to be finally living up to the billing and has stayed fit so far.

After eight games, Barcelona have not played a newly-promoted or a relatively weaker side other than Deportivo Alavés. The Blaugranas have already gone head-to-head with Sevilla, Atlético, Real Madrid and Getafe. These sides alone could shake up things in any league in the world.

messi Barcelona 2020/21 season

Lionel Messi and Barcelona need to pucker up before the season goes to dust. (Photo via Imago)

Now, after visiting the Wanda Metropolitano, the Catalans have a more laid-back schedule until the 19th of December, when they host Valencia. During this time, they will lock horns with the likes of Cadiz, Osasuna, Real Valladolid and Levante in the league.

However, facing weaker opposition does not guarantee wins. Cadiz, whom Barcelona face on the 5th, are giant killers and have already beaten Real Madrid this year. Osasuna, the next league opponents, have an impressive record against Barça – one that most teams would envy. While the teams look weaker on paper, they might just stun Barcelona.

After years of dominance, the Catalans find themselves in the hardest position ever. The season for Barcelona can take two paths: Either the players pick themselves up, or they endure a season which will embark an era going downhill. Letting go of the title after eight fixtures would be ludicrous and a total lack of respect to the fans who sit through 90 minutes every three days to cheer for their team.

If the players want to play without pressure, they must stop to think they are entitled to win. After the recent results, they have to regain confidence, and it begins in Kyiv this Tuesday.

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