Barca’s title hopes in tatters
Barcelona’s draw with Levante has left the club’s title hopes in tatters as the Catalan giants slipped up in a big game once again under Ronald Koeman.
The chance to go top of the table, temporarily at least, was on offer again on Tuesday night but Barca passed it up and simply proved they don’t deserve to be crowned champions.
Of course, the visitors should have taken all three points to keep their title hopes alive for another weekend. Three goals at Levante should have been enough for victory but once again Barca collapsed and the Frogs enjoyed themselves against the Catalan giants.
A 2-0 lead was thrown away and then a 3-2 advantage wasted as Barca produced an all-too familiar mix of missed chances and abymsal defending. Much has changed at the Camp Nou this season but this was the sort of performance that brought back bad memories of Champions League exits.
How can Koeman survive this?
The result will pile pressure on Ronald Koeman who came into the game with reports emerging that Barca are having doubts about his continuity and could decide to part ways in the summer.
if that’s the case then this was a result that will only hasten Koeman’s departure. The decision to replaced Ronald Araujo with Sergi Roberto instead of, you know, an actual defender at half-time proved pretty disastrous as Levante scored three times in the second half.
Indeed Barca seem to have gone backwards since seeing their 19-match unbeaten run ended, and Koeman’s insistence on using pretty much the same team every week, despite the brutal schedule, continues to frustrate.
The Dutchman’s failure in big matches and poor in-game management surely also won’t have gone unnoticed at the Camp Nou.
Koeman may have won the Copa del Rey and given youth a chance this season, but it’s difficult to see him staying on. The only question now is who replaces Koeman if the time’s still not right for Xavi?
The end for Sergi Roberto?
Koeman’s fondness for Sergi Roberto probably won’t help the Dutchman’s cause either with the 29-year-old putting in a disasterclass after coming off the bench at half-time and then being subbed late on.
Roberto simply isn’t a defender and the decision to bring him on rather than Oscar Mingueza was perplexing at best. Within 15 minutes of Roberto’s introduction the game was 2-2 and Barca were wobbling.
Roberto wasn’t the only defender to struggle but he certainly stood out with a performance that won’t have convinced anyone at the Camp Nou he deserves a new contract.
The defender/midfielder’s current deal expires in 2022 and it looks the right time to say goodbye.
Messi closes in on Pichichi
One of the few bright spots against Levante was Lionel Messi’s goal that takes him to 29 in La Liga and almost guarantees a record-extending eighth Pichichi trophy for the Barcelona captain.
Messi is now eight goals clear of nearest rivals Karim Benzema and Gerard Moreno, and you wouldn’t bet against him scoring again in Barca’s last few games and reaching the 30-goal mark for another season.
The Argentine has long made it clear he’s not too bothered by individual awards but it’s still another remarkable achievement to top the scoring charts in Spain’s top flight yet again.
It’s worth noting also that a massive 21 of those goals have come in Messi’s last 19 La Liga games, not bad going for a player who turns 34 next month.
Who replaces Frenkie against Celta?
Barcelona’s next match is a final home game of the season against Celta Vigo on Sunday, and Koeman will be forced to make at least one change with Frenkie de Jong suspended after picking up a fifth booking of the season.
The Dutchman has been one game away from a ban for the last 14 matches but finally saw yellow again and will now take a rare breather and give up his usual spot in midfield.
The Dutchman won’t be able to call on Roberto either. The 29-year-old’s season looks over after he was ruled out with a muscle injury, while Ronald Araujo also looks a doubt due to an ankle problem.
Koeman has favored Ilaix Moriba in recent weeks but the youngster did not feature at all against Levante. Instead it was Riqui Puig who actually saw some game time in the dying minutes. With his job under threat might Koeman finally turn to the youngster on Sunday?