Barcelona aren’t a side you normally expect to encounter problems. If you check the bettings tips and pre-match odds on sites like SBAT before each game, you will notice that the Catalan giants are nearly always listed as the favourite. Every team fears them and try to lose by the least amount possible, let alone stage an attempt to win.
However, this season, Luis Enrique’s men have been stuttering.
Where it has gone wrong
Enrique managed to rescue Barcelona on Wednesday with a 3-1 home win over Athletic Bilbao in the last-16 of the Copa del Rey. The domestic competition may prove to be their saving grace as La Liga looks increasingly beyond their reach.
Barca are currently third in the table and a few points adrift of leading rivals Real Madrid, despite having played a game more.
Barcelona’s shortcomings this season are largely to do with their poor start to the campaign. The Spanish giants lost 2-1 at home to Basque minnows, Alaves at the beginning of September and Enrique received a host of criticism for his decision to make a number of changes.
They dropped points again at the Camp Nou to Atletico Madrid no more than two weeks later.
Arguably Barcelona’s worst performance of the season was against Celta Vigo in which they lost 4-3. The score line flatters Barcelona, the Catalonians delivered a lacklustre performance and folded like a pack of cards when they came under any attacking pressure.
Admittedly, Enrique is partly to blame for Barcelona’s failings this season but he’s certainly not the sole culprit for their poor form.
It’s no secret that the Catalans have struggled in several aspects since Pep Guardiola’s departure and it may be that the club need a new identity but if Enrique wishes to be part of that, he needs to up his game.
The 46-year-old wanted to focus on Barca in the middle of the park and signed ball-carrier Andre Gomes in order to adopt more drive, however, when star man Lionel Messi drops deeper off the front line, Gomes becomes surplus requirements. It’s decision making like that, that keeps costing Barca and the reason why Enrique continues to receive such criticism.
Though, whether Enrique has been making the right, or wrong decisions, some key players have been underperforming. Prior to Wednesday night, Neymar had not scored in 991 minutes of football which is far from acceptable from the Brazilian.
The forward is a pivotal part of the Barca style of play and his below par performances have affected some results. Barca fans and Enrique alike will be hoping his Copa del Rey penalty afford the player with confidence to bring the goods in the league, and Champions League.
Enrique is yet to agree to a new deal and Mauricio Pochettino is been tipped as the Spaniard’s replacement, however, victory in the Copa del Rey and a successful Champions League campaign may just salvage it for him. Though that is something that will be easier said than done as the Champions League is more open than ever.
Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, PSG, Atletico Madrid and Manchester City are just some of the big names looking to claim football’s biggest prize.
Barca must face PSG in the round of the last-16 and it will not be an easy task but the Spanish giants are undeniably capable of competing with the best, particularly as they sport the best front in the world, Enrique just needs to find the right formula.