The ghost of Christmas Past came to haunt Barcelona again – this time at Anfield. The Blaugranes went into the hallowed ground with a three-goal advantage in their Champions League tie, just as last year against Roma. This year, Barcelona came out almost as flat as in the Olimpico Stadium and were punished similarly by a vibrant Liverpool side who came out quite truthfully, hungrier for an astonishing win. After the game, the attitude and overall ability of several players must come into question.
Let’s start off with one of the most controversial figures of the last campaign and a half, the Brazilian maestro, Philippe Coutinho. After impressing against Manchester United, scoring a beauty, and then celebrating questionably at the Camp Nou, Coutinho followed up one of his best Champions League performances with one of his worst. Whether it was returning back to Merseyside or simply the Brazilian’s lack of preparation, Coutinho was nowhere near his best.
When Barcelona shelled out over 130 million euros for the midfielder, he was seen as the key to Barcelona becoming less reliant upon the other maestro, Lionel Messi. Coutinho possesses a similar style of play – looking to pick up the ball in spaces throughout the midfield, turning quickly, and then beginning to run towards the opposition’s defense. After coming to Barcelona though, Coutinho has become of victim of the system and it seems his influence on games continues to wane. Is it time for him to go? Only time will tell, but as of now, Barcelona’s investment in him doesn’t seem to be paying off.
Usually a player that ranks in the upper half of Barcelona performers consistently, Jordi Alba also had a night he will need to forget. Punished by a Liverpool team missing two of their three best attackers in Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah, Jordi Alba aided the Reds attack in looking like a top five attacking team. Whether it was Alba simply not being mentally prepared knowing that the combination of Salah and Firmino would be out or just one day where the usual imperial left-back struggled, Alba’s form must be called into question.
With all the transfer talk surrounding upgrading positions in the midfield and defense, the left-back position has been left out of the equation because of Alba’s typical form. With Lucas Digne departing last summer for Everton, there’s no true competition for Alba in the left-back position. With continued performances like the one against Liverpool, maybe reinforcements are necessary.
Ultimately, Barcelona’s campaign came to a horrible end again. The Blaugranes had a mission, as set out by their captain Lionel Messi, bring back the Champions League trophy to the Nou Camp. They came closer than last year, but ultimately left fans around the world disappointed again. Liverpool are a better team than Roma, but a team with the quality of players Barcelona possess should never be beaten 4-0, especially in such a crucial tie.
With blame surrounding Valverde, and rightfully so – some must also be placed on the players that failed to live up to their lofty standards and price tags. With an influx of young talent expected over the summer, look for the possible departure of Coutinho and possibly the inclusion of a legitimate competitor for that left-back spot. Visca Barca.