Barcelona facing tough UCL draw
Barcelona headed into the match in good shape to finish top of Group G but threw that away with another dismal showing that means they end up in second place.
The 3-0 loss also ends Barca’s long unbeaten home run in the Champions League. Juve are the first team to win at the Camp Nou in the competition since 2013.
For the first time since 2013, Barcelona have lost a UCL home match.— B/R Football (@brfootball) December 8, 2020
Juventus end their 7 year streak. pic.twitter.com/CRLCuz55A9
There’s no doubt it’s a costly result and leaves Barca facing a tough last 16 draw on Monday with Bayern, Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea, and Dortmund all potential opponents.
Barca had managed five straight wins in the group before Tuesday’s loss, which had brought some optimism, but that’s pretty much all gone now.
More mistakes in the Barca defense
Ronald Koeman blasted his defense for their mistakes against Cadiz on Saturday and then saw his backline make even more against Juventus.
Clement Lenglet endured another tough night on his 100th appearance for Barca. He was booked, conceded a penalty for a handball and was taken off before he could get himself sent off.
Ronald Araujo also gave away a penalty on his return to action. The Uruguayan was harshly penalized for a challenge on Ronaldo, although both he and Lenglet went missing when Weston McKennie volleyed in Juventus’s second of the night.
Lenglet’s substitution did allow Samuel Umtiti to make his first appearance since June which should be good news for Barca, but there are still question marks over whether he will be able to stay fit and challenge Lenglet for a starting spot.
Messi goes it alone against Juventus
Barcelona’s defensive performance will worry Koeman but so too will his misfiring attack that drew a blank again. Martin Braithwaite started on the bench, Antoine Griezmann and Pedri struggled, while Francisco Trincao wasted a rare chance to impress in the starting XI.
There were high expectations of the winger when he completed his €31 million move from Braga over the summer, but he looks short of confidence, seems only interested in coming inside and has offered little. It’s only early of course, but it was no surprise to see him hooked at the break.
Instead it was simply left to Messi to try to find a way past Gianluigi Buffon in the Juventus goal. The Barca captain will probably get criticised for not scoring, on a night when Ronaldo bagged two penalties, but Messi was certainly once again Barca’s biggest threat.
7 - Barcelona’s Lionel Messi has had seven shots on target against Juventus (11 in total), more than any other player in a Champions League game without scoring since at least 2003/04. Tireless. pic.twitter.com/QGaAbe0sz2— OptaJose (@OptaJose) December 8, 2020
Injuries to Ansu Fati and Ousmane Dembele have undoubtedly weakened Barca’s attack and left Koeman’s side desperately lacking pace and width. They also stil seem worryingly short of ideas and seem content to simply give it to Messi and hope he can produce a moment of magic.
Will Koeman change formation?
Koeman has resolutely stuck to his 4-2-3-1 formation since taking charge but might he finally consider a change in order to improve results and performances?
There were whisperings ahead of the game that the players are starting to question Koeman’s formation and think it’s too rigid and lacks flexibility.
Certainly Barca are predictable and easy to play against currently, and Koeman’s insistence on the 4-2-3-1 once again saw Barca hammered in midfield.
Koeman is well-known for his stubborness and probably won’t change his mind easily, but he’s in trouble if the players are already losing faith in his system.
Even Andrea Pirlo said after the match he’d prepared his team “to create superiority in midfield with three against their two” because “we knew they had difficulty stopping them pushing up through the middle.”
Puig the only positive
The only positive from Tuesday’s loss was another bright cameo off the bench from Riqui Puig. The 21-year-old came on for Pedri on 66 minutes and offered the energy, dynamism and spark that had been so desperately lacking in the Barca midfield. Again.
Riqui Puig vs Juventus— Football Talent Scout - Jacek Kulig (@FTalentScout) December 8, 2020
93% pass accuracy
2 key passes
2/2 accurate long balls
1 successful dribble
1 tackle won
4/6 duels won
Still not good enough for Koeman... pic.twitter.com/BklPsE7fcj
Barca fans have, of course, been long calling for Puig to play regularly but he still looks ill-suited to Koeman’s formation. Koeman’s stubborness also means it’s difficult to see Puig in the starting XI any time soon no matter how well he plays.
Puig has only played three minutes in La Liga so far in 2020-21, with his other three appearances all coming in the Champions League. Yet might a busy week ahead finally mean more chances for the one player who is offering a bit of hope for the future at present?