At one point in the 2023-24 season, Barcelona appeared unstoppable. They put five goals past Real Betis, followed by another five against Royal Antwerp. In the very next matchday, they scored thrice in ten minutes to complete a comeback against Celta Vigo.
Now, the team finds itself in a completely opposite situation. Less than two months after the purple patch, the Blaugranas look clueless, and uninspired and appear to have hit their lowest point.
The Catalans are now coming from the back of a defeat to Shakhtar Donetsk in the UEFA Champions League. They face Deportivo Alaves on Sunday afternoon at the Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys, and the only objective in hand will be to get back to winning ways.
Barça Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Barcelona’s final game before the international break.
A lot has been said since Barcelona’s defeat against Shakhtar Donetsk, and rightly so. It is not the result against the Ukrainian side that stings, but the manner in which it arose.
Xavi Hernandez’s men were nowhere in the picture for ninety minutes in the UCL clash midweek. They were loose in defence, uninspired in midfield, and lacked any verticality in the final third.
Yet, that has been the theme for Barcelona for a while now. They have not looked the same since the defeat to Real Madrid in El Clasico and were lucky to escape with three points against Real Sociedad in their last league outing as well.
The signs in Catalonia are not positive and do not exude the image of a confident dressing room. Moreover, it is a matter of serious concern if one defeat can break a dressing room into such shambles.
Barcelona must get back on track, and fast, for there is no time to lose. Girona are pulling away at the top of the table, while Real Madrid continue drawing moments of magic through adversity.
If the Blaugranas’ lean patch continues, it could well be the end of the road for the team in a few weeks’ time.
Pedri at 100%
As part of his pre-game press conference, Xavi revealed that his star player, Pedri Gonzalez, was finally back to 100% fitness.
This comes as a massive development for Barcelona, who have been struggling in midfield in recent weeks. With Pedri and Frenkie de Jong out, the manager did not have many similar profiles in the squad to provide creativity or control.
The Spanish ace returned from injury in Barcelona’s clash against Real Sociedad, and it was evident from his very first touch off the bench that he was an X-factor. The same repeated when he came off the bench against Shakhtar Donetsk.
Having given him sparse minutes as a substitute in two games, Xavi will hope Pedri is ready to start against Alaves tomorrow. His return would give Barcelona a significant boost in their attempt to regain form.
The youngster could thus start as one of Barcelona’s interior midfielders tomorrow, with Fermin Lopez and Ilkay Gundogan taking the other two spots in midfield. Needless to say, he will have a crucial part to play.
Lewandowski’s lean patch
Over the years, Robert Lewandowski’s name has become synonymous with goals. The Polish international will go down in history as one of the game’s most prolific goalscorers, and it is for that very reputation that Barcelona signed him.
Last season, he ran away with the Pichichi award after a stunning start to the season. Despite not reaching his normal level in the second half of the campaign, he had enough in the bag to walk away with the accolade anyway.
This season, the veteran has five goals to his name in ten league appearances, and it is clear that he is not in his usual touch. Lewandowski no longer creates the same threat in front of goal, and his lack of sharpness is hitting Xavi’s plans hard.
The manager continues to have full faith in the Pole and insists that his drop in form is owing to Barcelona’s lack of positional play.
But numbers do not lie. Lewandowski completed just five passes and had no shot in the opening 45 minutes against Shakhtar Donetsk midweek. With no goals in his last six games, this is his worst streak in front of goal since February 2011.
The manager must thus look at ways of optimising the striker’s output, for he is essential for the team’s success.