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Three talking points from Valencia 1-1 Barcelona | La Liga

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After two defeats on the trot, Barcelona dropped points for the third successive game at Mestalla on Saturday night. The scoreline may read 1-1, but the game had no dearth of action as both teams stepped on the gas and gunned for three points. 

The first half ended scoreless despite chances falling at the doorstep of both teams. Barcelona cranked up the heat after the restart and took the lead through Joao Felix, but Los Che capitalised on a half-chance to net a screamer of an equaliser.

Barça Universal brings you three talking points from Barcelona’s day out at Mestalla.

Severe finishing deficiency 

Has age finally caught up to Lewandowski? (Photo by PAU BARRENA/AFP via Getty Images)

A prominent feature of Barcelona’s clash against Valencia was the team’s evident struggle in front of goal. Yet, it was not a development that raised many eyebrows.  

After all, the Catalan giants have been suffering from poor finishing for a while now, and to no respite. There appears to be no sign of Robert Lewandowski’s form improving, nor much reliable finishing from others.

Xavi deployed Lewy alongside Joao Felix and Raphinha on the night. 

The striker failed to score once again, making it just one goal in his last six games. He recorded three shots on target, one off target and had one blocked but could not get the better of Giorgi Mamardashvili.

Felix and Raphinha, meanwhile, played part of their role to perfection. 

The Portuguese starlet scored the team’s opener on the night, but only courtesy of a wonderful assist from Raphinha and a pre-assist from Frenkie de Jong. 

Raphinha himself was perhaps Barcelona’s best forward and player on the night. He did indeed lack the finishing touch but created two chances, one big chance, and had three shots on target.

All in all, Xavi’s side created an xG of over 3 on the night but managed to put away just one goal. It was almost astounding that nothing came off the ruthless final ten minutes Barcelona played and the flurry of chances that followed.

Needless to say, a lot needs to improve in front of goal if they are to push forward on all fronts.

Midfield: A problem of harmony

Xavi’s men have been constantly let down by various departments this season. There have been hardly any performances where the entire team has dropped a positive showing, with the defence and attack often being the culprits.

The midfield, however, has been a silently critical factor that not much light is shed on. 

The clash at Mestalla on Saturday night was no different. Ilkay Gundogan, Pedri and Frenkie de Jong started in the middle of the park. They shone on an individual level but failed as a unit.

Frenkie de Jong was arguably the best player from an individual standpoint. He delivered a classic clocking just under 100 touches, two key passes, a big chance generated, 100% dribbles completed and six accurate long passes. He was defensively on point as well, providing 11 defensive actions.

Even Pedri looked closer to his best on the night as he dictated the flow in the middle of the park with 116 touches. He was pushed deeper into midfield than his liking, but delivered with 15 defensive actions.

The individual numbers, however, do not bring out the complete picture. Xavi’s forced combination of Pedri, Gundogan and De Jong is not sustainable in the long run simply because of the lack of ball-winners.

Off the ball, Barcelona’s midfield is static. The lack of a natural replacement for Sergio Busquets and Gavi’s injury leave the manager with no choice but the glaringly dysfunctional trio of attacking midfielders.

Nearing the exit?

Danger looming. (Photo by JOSE JORDAN/AFP via Getty Images)

After two losses and a draw in their last three games, the first question that pops to mind is – What do Barcelona have to cling on and see as the silver lining?

Unfortunately for Xavi, there does not appear to be much. 

Barcelona are in defensive shambles with Jules Kounde and Alejandro Balde looking like a shadow of their former selves. Andreas Christensen and Ronald Araujo also appear more mistake-prone than ever before.

The midfield is still recovering from the untimely loss of Gavi, while the forward line is shockingly underwhelming.

To add salt to the wounds, Marc Andre Ter Stegen’s surgery leaves the manager without his first-choice goalkeeper as well.

Barcelona already sit six points behind Girona and four points behind Real Madrid on the league standings. At the end of the matchday, that gap could widen to nine and seven respectively.

There is thus not long before the Catalans find themselves virtually out of contention for the league title. Given the team’s crisis across the field, there is not much hope for a dramatic turnaround either.

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