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Three talking points from Royal Antwerp 3-2 Barcelona | UEFA Champions League



Photo by TOM GOYVAERTS/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images

Both Barcelona and Real Madrid’s games followed queerly similar storylines this week.

Both games ended in a 3-2 scoreline, with one team leading 2-1 for most parts of the game. In both matches, the trailing side equalised in the dying minutes of the game before the dominant team once again conjured resources under pressure to deservedly win.

The only difference was that the dominant team, and eventually victor in Los Blancos’ clash was themselves. In Barcelona’s case, however, it was their Belgian opposition Royal Antwerp that pulled off the comeback.

Xavi did field a heavily rotated team against Mark van Bommel’s men, but it was a complete failure. The Blaugranas never really got into the game, and the fact that Antwerp goalkeeper Jean Butez had to only make one save all game says a lot.

Barça Universal brings you three talking points from Royal Antwerp 3-2 Barcelona which brings a lot to ponder on Xavi’s table.

Once is a mistake, but twice?

Xavi has not faced the music for the team’s performances yet, but that day is not far away. As a club legend and local hero, he has an extra lease of life in the form of public sympathy. Yet, one cannot help but admit that Barcelona currently look more dysfunctional than ever.

The team’s form peaked a few months ago when they appeared imperious in every part of the field. It was the time when they hammered five goals past Real Betis, and ironically, five past Royal Antwerp.

Less than three months later, the same Catalans team suffered last night and conjured a 3-2 defeat. The depreciation in performance is thus visible through results alone.

Barcelona were woeful at the weekend against Girona and fell to an embarrassing 4-2 defeat at home. Yesterday night showed no improvement in terms of performance or result.

The Catalans were defensively frail yet again and looked as vulnerable as ever on the break. The midfield was in shambles, albeit due to heavy rotations, and struggled to keep up with the pace of the game.

Only Lamine Yamal impressed in the forward line. Robert Lewandowski was dreadful on the night and practically invisible, and it now appears that his drop in form is beyond repair.

Oriol Romeu’s play of blunders

A forgettable night for Oriol Romeu. (Photo by JOHN THYS/AFP via Getty Images)

Oriol Romeu may have got off to a fabulous start to life at Barcelona, but every passing game now serves as a reminder as to why he was the club’s last-ditch option in the summer.

The Spaniard was perhaps Barcelona’s worst player on Wednesday night. He struggled to keep up with Royal Antwerp’s press, quick counters, and presence in midfield. His woeful distribution, in fact, single-handedly cost the Catalans the game.

In just the second minute of the game, Romeu’s poor pass to Andreas Christensen was intercepted by Arthur Vermeeren with ease. His slack distribution gifted the opposition with a golden 1v1 chance against Inaki Pena which Vermeeren rightfully converted.

As if the direct and blatant error was not enough, Romeu once again single-handedly gave away a second goal to the Belgian side.

It was in the 56th minute when the Barcelona midfielder was dispossessed at the edge of the box by Antwerp’s Yusuf Alhassan. The action directly gave berth to another simple chance for the hosts which Vincent Janssen finished with ease.

The road ahead

Luckily for Xavi and Barcelona, the result on Wednesday night did not have any direct bearing on the team’s qualification to the knockout stages. It was guaranteed after the win against Shakhtar Donetsk and the Blaugranas finished as group leaders regardless of the defeat.

As table-toppers, the Catalans are expected to get a favourable draw for the Round of 16 during the ceremony on Monday. Yet, with names like Inter Milan, Napoli, PSG, and Bayer Leverkusen in the mix, it is clear that nothing is certain.

Xavi’s men have been very poor in recent games, and despite the elation over their qualification, the joy might well end in the next round if the same run of form continues.

The manager thus needs to fix things, and fast. After all, situations do not appear favourable for his side in either the Champions League or La Liga as things stand.

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