Whichever line up Xavi decided to go with against Plzen, it was always going to be contentious for one set of culers or another.
Too strong a starting XI in what was a Champions League dead rubber and there was a genuine risk of further injuries to key players - Franck Kessie’s hamstring issue appearing to be a case in point.
Too weak, and it would almost certainly lead to questions marks over how much strength in depth the first team really do have
As it turned out, Xavi remained reasonably cautious.
On the face of it, the team had the right blend of experience and youth to still be competitive against what was expected to be a brave and plucky but ultimately easily beatable home side.
Perhaps then that was part of the problem, because despite having the lion’s share of possession across the 90 minutes, the Catalans somehow managed to make heavy weather of things.
Though it was a delight to see the likes of Pablo Torre and Inaki Peña handed decent game time, that joy was tempered by the knowledge that a number of the club’s ‘second string’ are either not up to the job in hand or think coasting through games is acceptable.
The normally sharp-shooting Ansu Fati still hasn’t rediscovered his killer instinct, something which would surely see his confidence returning in front of goal.
Strike partner, Ferran Torres, disappointed by and large on a stage which was made for him to display his talents.
Yes, he made the game safe on a couple of occasions but he could hardly miss both times. Any other chances that came his way and might be considered bread and butter for most strikers, were passed up.
In a game where Plzen were sitting ducks, that’s not good enough.
However, it was in defence that the Blaugranes struggled. Only Jordi Alba can really emerge with his head held high.
Having hardly played this season as Barça look to leverage him out of the Camp Nou, Alba was at least tidy in possession for the most part, provided a willing and able outlet in attack and ensured that if Plzen were going to score, it wouldn’t be down his side of the pitch.
22 - Barcelona conceded 22 shots against Viktoria Plzeň , more than in any other game this season in all competitions and their most in a Champions League game since August 2020 against Bayern Munich in Lisbon (26). Relaxation. pic.twitter.com/C5XxoHWWBo— OptaJose (@OptaJose) November 1, 2022
A shame that the same can’t be said for Hector Bellerin, who should never be allowed near Barca’s first team again.
Very simply, despite Xavi’s obvious need for a high level and natural right-back, the Catalans would be better off leaving Alba in situ and playing Alejandro Balde as a makeshift right-sided player.
If a team like Plzen, with respect, can consistently harm Barça from their raids down the right, then it’s blindingly obvious to Xavi where the problem this season really lies.