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Three talking points ahead of Barcelona vs Almeria | La Liga

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Photo by JOSE JORDAN/AFP via Getty Images

17 games, 12 losses, five draws, zero wins. Such is the situation of La Liga’s lowest-ranked team, Almeria, heading into Matchday 18 where they take on Barcelona at Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys.

Barcelona themselves are not in a pleasant situation heading into the final game before the Christmas break. They are winless in three matches, have their participation in the expanded Club World Cup 2025 in danger and are also close to falling apart in the La Liga title race.

Wednesday’s game thus brings a fascinating script. One team looking to score a first win will face off against another hoping to break their rut. The circumstances set up for a high-voltage clash in Catalonia where neither side can rightfully be declared underdogs.

Barça Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Barcelona vs Almeria.

Sinking in free-fall

Barcelona cannot be blamed for taking blows in recent games. Dropping points is a natural part of the game, and a bad day can affect even the best teams in the world.

The Catalans’ and Xavi’s biggest crime is their failure to stop the bleeding. What should have ended as a solitary hiccup against Girona was severely aggravated by the humiliating defeat to Royal Antwerp.

Needless to say, the recent draw against Valencia did not win the team any favours or sympathy. Winless in their last three games, Barcelona are sinking into freefall and appear to have no control over the deteriorating situation.

Xavi has problems uniformly distributed across the field. From Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s injury in goal to the dysfunctional defence; the unbalanced midfield to the misfiring forward line, there is no end to the flaws in the Barça setup as it stands.

The manager’s dilemma, thus, is no longer how to solve the problem but which one to tackle first. After all, Barcelona are already nine points behind league leaders Girona and do not have much breathing space if they are to stay alive in the league race.

Focus on the forwards

Under intense scrutiny. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Xavi called Barcelona one of the worst teams in the world in terms of finishing in his recent press conference, and rightly so. His men have been wasteful in the final third for a long time now, and their inefficiency has cost them dearly.

A large part of the blame, unsurprisingly, falls on Robert Lewandowski. As the team’s primary centre-forward, the responsibility of converting chances created falls on his shoulders. However, he is far from his best and the numbers suggest the same.

The Polish striker has scored just once in Barcelona’s last six games despite playing 522 of the possible 540 minutes. In his most recent outing, he failed to score from three shots and a cumulative xG of 0.72.

With Vitor Roque arriving after the Christmas break, tomorrow could well be one of Lewandowski’s final opportunities to prove that he still has the killer instinct in his boots. After all, his place in the lineup will no longer remain uncontested.

An equal emphasis falls on the shoulders of the team’s wingers. Raphinha, in particular, has been wasteful for the Azulgranas in the final third, and it remains to be seen if the Brazilian is awarded continuity on the night.

A blow like none other

Word from the Barcelona camp has some worrying news, one that could potentially derail the team’s run in the coming weeks.

Star midfielder Pedri Gonzalez has suffered a fresh injury. Rumour has it that the player will be out for anywhere between two to three weeks and will thus be unavailable to face Almeria.As such, Xavi finds himself staring at a deep problem in midfield.

Frenkie de Jong is unavailable on the night through suspension. With Ilkay Gundogan the only guaranteed starter in midfield on Wednesday, the manager must work a combination to maximise the German’s output.

Oriol Romeu would be the natural option considering his quality as a defensive midfielder. Yet, the Spaniard has not been in great touch lately and was single-handedly responsible for two goals conceded against Royal Antwerp last week.

Fermin Lopez stands out as another potential candidate to take over in midfield, but his attacking profile and relative deficiency in the press place him as a tactical misfit unless the team features a natural pivot.

What is Xavi’s Plan B without Pedri and Gavi? Will Marc Casado finally get the minutes he deserves? Or will Xavi continue to trust tested resources?

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