The UEFA Champions League is known for producing scripts that have never been written before. Nothing can be said with certainty about the flow of events in the competition, and Barcelona’s campaign this season is more of the same.
After three wins in their opening three games of the competition, everything seemed set for the Catalans to guarantee their qualification on Matchday 4. Fate, however, had other plans in store and Barcelona’s future in the competition is still uncertain.
Having failed to qualify for the knockout stages for two seasons in a row, Barcelona are under pressure to turn things around this year. Tomorrow’s clash against Porto will be critical on that front.
Barça Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Barcelona vs Porto.
A lot needs to change
Barcelona’s recent performances have not been without moments of brilliance. In every game, the Catalans have shown great grit in the final stretch of the fixture but have been let down by slow starts.
Such an observation can only point to one conclusion. With the right mentality and under the right amount of pressure, Barcelona have the required quality to produce a high-level game.
In essence, they are being let down by their own inability to maintain their inherent quality.
A lot will change if Xavi’s side begin to start games the same way they aim to finish them – high in intensity and fearless in terms of risk. Taking a conservative approach is not the way forward.
Looking specifically towards the clash against Porto tomorrow night, the Blaugranas must begin by improving their efficiency in the final third.
A combination of Robert Lewandowski, Joao Felix and Lamine Yamal would serve as the perfect combination on that front.
Moreover, the Catalans must ensure that the midfield’s stability in terms of defensive resilience is not compromised.
Frenkie de Jong, Pedri Gonzalez and Ilkay Gundogan appear to be Xavi’s first-choice trio, but the Dutch midfielder would have to put in an extra shift in such a formation to provide the required defensive security.
One win away
Had Barcelona won their clash against Shakhtar Donetsk in Hamburg, they would have guaranteed themselves a berth in the knockout of the UEFA Champions League for the first time after two long seasons.
Moreover, it would have placed them in pole position to finish leaders of Group H.
The defeat to the Ukrainian side, however, threw the group wide open. All of a sudden, three of the four teams are back in contention for qualification and Barcelona’s chances of finishing leaders is looking grim.
All hope is not lost, though. The situation is still in the hands of Xavi’s side, and a win on Tuesday night will go a long way in helping them achieve their objectives.
Barcelona, as it stand, are the leader of Group H with nine points alongside Porto. Shakhtar sit right behind on six points while Royal Antwerp are yet to open their account.
A Catalan win tomorrow night would inevitably see Porto lose points, thus securing Barcelona’s place in the next round. Further, it would also guarantee their place on the top of their table, for head-to-head results counts as the tie-breaker in the UCL.
There is a lot riding on Tuesday’s clash at Estadio Olimpic de Lluis Companys, and it is high time Xavi’s men wake up and smell the coffee.
The first final
Barcelona’s season has now reached its climax. The Catalans have reached that point in the campaign where the coming set of results could well decide their fate across all competitions, and it does not help that they must face some of Europe’s most in-form sides on the way.
Barcelona’s latest set of challenges begins with the game against Porto on Tuesday.
The Portuguese side, after all, are placed third in this season’s Liga Portugal and have lost only one game in UCL this year.
Following the challenging European clash, however, Barcelona see no respite. They take on Atletico Madrid at home in a critical La Liga fixture before facing leaders Girona in the subsequent match day.
At this stage in the season, the Blaugranas have no margin for error. Only wins in all three games will keep them alive on both fronts, thus making tomorrow’s clash their first final of the season in many ways.
All eyes will be on Xavi to see how the men in garnet-and-blue turn things around after a lean patch.