Barcelona edged past Real Valladolid at the Camp Nou with a 1-0 win courtesy of a penalty on Gerard Pique, that was slotted home with confidence by Lionel Messi. Apart from that one moment, however, things looked pretty hopeless in the finishing department.
Time and again, Jordi Masip managed to come out on top in one-on-one situations and every other time, there was either a bad touch in the box, or a poor shot that went wide. By the end of the game, Masip almost seemed invincible. From saving a penalty (and its follow-through header), to making incredible frog-leap saves, there was simply no beating the former Barcelona keeper.
Sometimes, everything works out for the other side and for the kind of performance Masip put in, there was no solution. When a player has one of those special performances, even the opposition feels helpless.
While Masip was a major factor in the scoreline remaining so tight, poor finishing did not aid the cause.
There were a few good takeaways from that game like Gerard Pique’s incredible form and the number of good chances Barcelona created throughout the 90 minutes. Many believed that against O-Lyon, those missed chances would be converted, but the story continued dismally in France.
Philippe Coutinho was another positive from the league game, as he played some incredible one-touch football with Luis Suarez to earn a penalty. It was indicative of his intelligence and one could only hope that such close-control in tight spaces would be better utilised by the Brazilian in the coming games. However, the Brazilian failed to make the difference in Lyon.
Barcelona’s current faults cannot be blamed on the manager anymore. The likes of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez who find themselves in front of goal time and again, cannot keep missing chances. The latter, in particular, has become a liability.
To paraphrase Pep Guardiola, the best coach of this generation, the manager’s job is to bring the players into the final third and it’s the player’s job to finish the chances.
One of three things can happen from this point:
- The players will start putting the ball in the back of the net and Barcelona will suddenly start winning big.
- The chances will dry up but the players will finish the few they get.
- Barcelona will eventually struggle to create opportunities.
If the level of play drops to the third option, then there is little hope of winning the UCL this season. Looking at the state of things, the strikers need to start firing crisper shots from the very next game.