What’s wrong with Barcelona?

The Myanmar Times - - Sport -

COM­ING off a La Liga-win­ning sea­son, Barcelona are off to their worst start since Lionel Messi’s de­but sea­son nine years ago. A 1-1 draw at Real So­ciedad was de­scribed as a “mir­a­cle” by Barca boss Luis En­rique, in what he sin­gled out as the worst per­for­mance in his three sea­sons in charge.

Barca are al­ready six points be­hind Real Madrid ahead of their meet­ing in El Cla­sico on De­cem­ber 3.

Messi res­cued Barca from a fifth con­sec­u­tive de­feat at San Se­bas­tian, but the Novem­ber 27 draw was the first time Barca have dropped points in the league this sea­son when the Ar­gen­tine played 90 min­utes.

Messi’s pres­ence was sorely missed in de­feats to Celta Vigo and Alaves and draws with Malaga and Atletico Madrid.

How­ever, he is far from the only key man to have sat out part of the sea­son.

An­dres Ini­esta has been out for over a month, whilst Span­ish team­mates Ger­ard Pique and Jordi Alba were also side­lined for a num­ber of weeks.

Ser­gio Bus­quets, an of­ten un­der­rated pil­lar of Barca’s suc­cess, is also in the midst of his most pro­tracted slump since break­ing into the first team un­der Pep Guardi­ola in 2008.

It is no co­in­ci­dence that Bus­quets’ strug­gles have come for the first pro­longed pe­riod with­out re­tired leg­end Xavi or Ini­esta by his side.

His in­flu­ence in terms of touches and passes has waned since En­rique took charge and favoured a more di­rect style to feed a su­per­star front of Messi, Luis Suarez and Ney­mar.

With­out the ball, Bus­quets is now be­ing ex­posed by the lack of sup­port around him, as Ivan Rakitic has been forced wider on the right to pro­tect the in­ex­pe­ri­enced Sergi Roberto, who re­placed the de­parted Dani Alves at right-back.

The gap be­tween Barca and Madrid can also be ex­plained by the dif­fer­ing chal­lenges they are fac­ing.

The Cata­lans have al­ready made tricky trips to Sevilla, So­ciedad, Ath­letic Bil­bao, Celta Vigo and, de­spite their cur­rent strug­gles, Va­len­cia, as well as Atletico Madrid at home.

Real’s 31-game un­beaten run will be put firmly to the test at the Camp Nou on De­cem­ber 3, but other chal­lenges await for the Euro­pean cham­pi­ons with four away trips in five games just as the Cham­pi­ons League re­turns in Fe­bru­ary.

Barca splurged over 120 mil­lion eu­ros (US$127 mil­lion) in the sum­mer win­dow to bol­ster their squad.

But so far, none of their six recruits have es­tab­lished them­selves in En­rique’s pre­ferred start­ing XI.

A year ago, while Messi was side­lined for two months by knee lig­a­ment dam­age, Ney­mar and Suarez not only en­sured Barca didn’t lose ground, but were able to ac­cel­er­ate past Madrid at the top of the ta­ble.

Twelve months on, Barca’s Mes­side­pen­dence ia back: He’s scored 10 of Barca’s last 14 goals.

Suarez has scored just once in his last five out­ings, whilst Ney­mar hasn’t scored from open play in La Liga since Septem­ber. –

Photo: AFP

Barcelona for­ward Luis Suarez re­acts with dis­ap­point­ment af­ter Real So­ciedad scored a goal on Novem­ber 27. The teams drew 1-1.

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