Barcelona’s clash against Shakhtar Donetsk late in October was dominant in every sense of the word.
Playing in front of 41,000 fans at Estadi Olimpic de Lluis Companys, the Catalans took the early lead through Ferran Torres before Fermin Lopez doubled their advantage.
The game eventually ended 2-1 in Barcelona’s favour, setting them up well for El Clasico. However, the result against Real Madrid did not serve the team well and the impact of the same was visible in their game thisweekend.
Xavi Hernandez’s men take on the same opposition, Shakhtar Donetsk, in an early kickoff tomorrow night as part of the reverse fixture.
This time, the game will be held in Hamburg, with the theoretical home advantage lying in the opponent’s hands.
Barça Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Shakhtar Donetsk vs Barcelona.
Time to buckle up
Barcelona’s 1-0 win over Real Sociedad exposed several of the team’s glaring flaws. The Catalans were outclassed at San Sebastian, and nowhere close to deserving all three points.
Throughout the ninety minutes, La Real pushed on the highest gear in the attack. The Basque outfit made easy work of the Blaugrana defence, tormenting them on the counter and in possession.
Yet, Xavi Hernandez’s side walked home with all three points courtesy of a Ronald Araujo winner late in the game.
The Uruguayan sensation put the ball past the goalkeeper with just three minutes left in extra-time, and that coupled with Real Madrid’s draw against Rayo Vallecano helped the Azulgranas reduce the deficit with Los Blancos to two points.
There is, however, a lot that must change from Barcelona’s perspective. From mental resilience on the field to the lack of chemistry they showed in the Basque country, they simply were not good enough.
It is time to buckle up and get back to a fresh start for the men in garnet and blue. Against Shakhtar Donetsk, the objective will thus be to ride on the wave of momentum and bring home three more points, albeit in a more convincing fashion.
The knockout stages await
There is more to Barcelona’s midweek clash against Shakhtar Donetsk than meets the eye.
The UEFA Champions League is one of the Blaugranas’ primary objectives this season, especially given their bitter history with group-stage exits in recent years.
They have taken a strong step towards the same with their performances thus far, but their spot in the knockouts is not yet a given.
Three games into their European campaign, Xavi’s men sit on nine points and a +7 goal difference.
They are the leaders of Group H, with Porto following closely on six points and Shakhtar on three; Royal Antwerp, meanwhile, are yet to open their account.
A win over the Ukrainian side at Volksparkstadion will not only guarantee Barcelona a place in the next stage of the competition but also boost their chances of finishing as the table-toppers.
They would move to 12 points and open up a nine-point lead over third-placed Shakhtar.
With two matchdays to go, it would mathematically secure a berth in the Round of 16 for the first time in three years.
Chance to rotate
With the schedule getting hectic and the constant shuffling between club football and international fixtures, Xavi Hernandez is faced with the difficult task of managing his personnel’s playing time.
The Catalans are just recovering from a series of key injuries, with Robert Lewandowski, Pedri Gonzalez, Raphinha and Jules Kounde making their way back in recent games.
Needless to say, they cannot afford to sink into a similar situation again.
Tomorrow’s clash, thus, provides the manager with the ideal stage to rotate his troops and provide some of the mainstays with deserved rest.
After all, the situation in La Liga demands that the team treat every game as a must-win.
Xavi could thus make changes starting from defence tomorrow, with Andreas Christensen, returning to the starting lineup while Alejandro Balde could be rested for Marcos Alonso.
Joao Cancelo, who has also been overworked since his arrival, could well start off the bench.
In midfield, the manager could look to rest Ilkay Gundogan and field a trio of Fermin Lopez, Oriol Romeu and Gavi on the night, as Pedri slowly returns to full fitness.
Robert Lewandowski is expected to start in attack and complete a larger spell on the field than in recent games.
He could be paired alongside Ferran Torres and Raphinha on the night considering Joao Felix’s recent workload.