So no miracle for Barcelona. With Inter Milan thrashing Viktoria Plzen by four goals in the early game, Barca’s last glimpse of hope shut down. They couldn’t slip through the narrow door to glory. And Barcelona marched onto their game against group leader Bayern Munich at their home ground Spotify Camp Nou knowing they would play Thursday Night football after the Group stage finishes. Despite being eliminated, the fans and the players knew how many times Bayern had humiliated them and was hoping to beat their rival to bid a memorable farewell. That didn’t happen, either. The German side put three past Ter Stegen to end Barcelona’s forgettable night. So what to do next? What needs to be solved, and what should the Cules expect in the remainder of the season? Let’s look at some pivotal points for Barcelona after their Champions League elimination!
1. A Possible Silver Lining
Maybe the Catalunya giant not qualifying for the Knockout stage isn’t all that bad for themselves. First, Barcelona’s chance of winning a cup this season increases. Dropping down to the Europa League makes them the overwhelming favorite to win it all: the odds place them at a 24% chance of winning. The Europa League title is missing from their glorious trophy case anyway.
But the most important thing is that Barcelona will have more energy to focus on La Liga. They currently sit in second place, a win behind long-time rival Real Madrid. With the Champions League out of hand, winning the domestic title becomes Barca’s number one target. Without having to divide so much attention to the midweek game and changing goals can lead to more consistency and possible title charge.
So their ultimate goal this season is to try and snatch that La Liga title away from Real’s hand. Blaugrana has the right tools to make that happen.
2. The upsides
To say Barcelona doesn’t have stars is a misconception. They have individuals any team could dream of having. Robert Lewandowski is still the top player he was at Bayern, scoring goals at will. Seventeen total goals, including twelve in La Liga, put him atop La Liga Pichichi’s leaderboard and top 5 in the UCL’s leaderboard. And his supporting cast is deadly as well. Ousmane Dembele, Ferran Torres, and Ansu Fati are quality wingers. Not to mention, the last two Golden Boys and Kopa Trophy winners are Barca’s finest in the midfield: Gavi and Pedri. The human value is there.
Plus, Cules love this club unconditionally. They will be side by side with the team no matter how bad Barca is. Again, human value. But there are things that still need fixing.
3. What does Barcelona need to change?
Although it is true that Barca has some serious stars in their squad, they are not playing like a team. Too many incoming transfers of the previous transfer window are killing their chemistry. But time and practice can fix this issue.
To continue with the issue of human resources, they have to address that defensive line and defensive midfielder. Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba, Gerard Pique, and even Sergi Roberto are all legends of this club (well, probably not Roberto, but he had that glorious moment against PSG), but they are no longer the men that brought them the Treble in 2015. All are now slow to follow younger players, which hurts their team more than benefits it.
Let’s be honest, although they brought in splashy signings last summer, none of which actually fixed the defense. Araujo is their most consistent player, but regularly on the injury list. Former Sevilla stand-out Jules Kounde is fantastic, but he is somewhat injury-prone and inconsistent. And Kounde was flat-out terrible against Bayern this week. Eric Garcia has never been a solution, and he was a liability in the El Classico. And don’t get anyone started with Bellerin. Balde could be an option on the left flank, and they need to give him more playing time. In short, fix and develop the defense or continue to fall in big matches.
The third problem is tactics and management: this one is on Xavi. He has been stubborn with his tactics and player use. Yes, we all know the legendary legacy of Tiki-taka. But not every Barcelona has to play Tiki-taka. It is impossible to make a physical Franck Kessie play like Andres Iniesta. And sometimes the fans don’t even know if Xavi-ball takes inspiration from Tiki-taka or Ronald Koeman’s spam crossing. The fans’ high demand for beautiful football is one of the reasons this happened. Ernesto Valverde was a phenomenal coach for Barca, in hindsight. He won every domestic trophy imaginable, playing not the prettiest but the most effective football. They need to sharpen up! Fixing chemistry is the initiator for tactics to succeed anyway.
It is not the end of the world for Barcelona after the elimination. Right now they have to focus on developing young guns, gluing the team together, and making the tactics suitable for the men they have. As soon as they are done with those tasks, contention for any title is within reach.
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