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What next for Xavi and his expensively assembled Barcelona side?

The Catalans are on the brink of another early UCL exit

FC Barcelona v FC Internazionale: Group C - UEFA Champions League Photo by Pedro Salado/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

It’s the Europa League at best for us again this season, unless by some miracle the footballing Gods are smiling on Barcelona.

But for Robert Lewandowski, the Blaugranes would be out of the Champions League already, but his incredible late header to salvage a point gives Xavi and Co. the most miniscule ray of hope to hold on to.

So where did it all go wrong…

Despite having the vast majority of possession, particularly in the opening 45 against Inter Milan, Barca made heavy weather of the 90 minutes.

The Italians had a couple of decent chances to go ahead before Ousmane Dembele’s strike sent the Camp Nou into rapture.

FC Barcelona v FC Internazionale: Group C - UEFA Champions League Photo by Pedro Salado/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Indeed, Internazionale, despite being outplayed for long periods, as they had been in the San Siro, looked the more dangerous.

Were it not for the woodwork and the strong arms of Marc-Andre ter Stegen, the Catalans would’ve been chasing a must-win game long before half-time.

As it was, Xavi’s persistence at playing an all-out attack eventually paid off before the break. Then it all fell apart - again.

One has to doff the cap to the coach to a certain extent as his selection meant that Inter were pinned back, often against their will, for virtually the entire half.

In a sense, it’s difficult to be critical of a coach that lays it on the line in the hour of need. Win or bust, and no mistake.

In fact, if you look at all of Barca’s Champions League matches in 2022/23, the Blaugranes have taken the game to their opponents in every one.

Personally, I’d much rather that than the ultra cautious manner of the likes of Ernesto Valverde et al.

However, it could be considered ‘gung ho,’ and as was seen once more, it won’t always pay off.

The major moan when Valverde, Setien and Koeman were in charge was the lack of entertainment. I’ll take the odd loss if it means I’m on the edge of my seat for 90 per cent of the time.

FC Barcelona v Inter - UEFA Champions League Photo by Adria Puig/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

But the bottom line is that we are Barca and we have to be winning the big games. For one reason or another, Xavi has failed in the big UCL matches this season and that’s not good enough.

It is worth remembering too he has and will continue to make mistakes, be that in team selection, tactical acumen and other factors.

I’d actually contend that as someone who is still very much learning his trade on the job, he should be allowed to make those mistakes. How the hell is he meant to learn and progress as a coach otherwise?!

And if not Xavi, then who? Tell me.

Whatever the coach does or doesn’t do right on the night, he can’t legislate for schoolboy errors like Gerard Pique made, and that shouldn’t be pinned on him.

Like it or not, Xavi’s Barca are still far from the team we want and expect, and perhaps we have to accept that the Europa League is our level at present.

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