Xavi’s rotations backfire
Xavi opted to rest some of his regulars for the visit of Galatasaray with Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets, Ousmane Dembele, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang starting on the bench.
The Barca boss was also without Dani Alves and Gavi for the match but his rotations didn’t really work out as the hosts toiled despite dominating possession.
Pique, Busquets and Dembele all arrived at half-time, which tells you plenty about what Xavi thought of the first half, and Aubameyang and Luuk de Jong followed but to no avail.
Barca ended the game with 63% possession and having had 16 attempts on goal but only four of those managed to hit the target.
Xavi spoke before the match about the need to rotate his players due to fatigue but he might have been better off making changes at the weekend against Osasuna.
Instead the Barcelona boss now faces a crunch Europa League second leg tie at Galatasaray which comes just three days before El Clasico at the Bernabeu.
Inaki Pena enjoys Barcelona return
One of the most impressive Barcelona players on the pitch on Thursday night was stationed in the Galatasaray goal as Inaki Pena returned to the Camp Nou.
The stopper is on loan for the second half of the season with the Turkish side and enjoyed a strong European debut against his parent club.
Pena caught the eye with a fine save from a Memphis free-kick and also denied the Dutchman with another flying effort. He also tipped over a header from captain Sergio Busquets from a corner.
As you can see, Pena also impressed with the ball at his feet.
No Galatasaray player attempted (40) and completed more passes (31) for Gala than Inaki Pena.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 10, 2022
He's the Turkish side's goalkeeper. pic.twitter.com/pfdWZNLpZ2
The goalkeeper’s performance will certainly not have harmed his chances ahead of next season with Barca reportedly wanting competition for Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Xavi described Pena as “spectacular” after the game and confirmed once again the plan is for him to return in the summer.
It was a big call by Pena to go out on loan and try his luck in a different country, but his decision to move in a bid to help further his career looks to have been a good one.
Barca fail to score for first time in 3 months
Barcelona’s failure to score against Galataray was something of a surprise as the Catalan giants drew a blank for the first time since the defeat to Bayern Munich on 8 December. That’s 93 days ago to be precise.
In that time Barca had scored 42 times in 16 matches but they finally drew a blank against Galatasaray, Interestingly, this was Gala’s first clean sheet in 11 games since the turn of the year.
| Barcelona 0:0 Galatasaray— SofaScore (@SofaScoreINT) March 10, 2022
The hosts had much more of the ball, but they couldn't create more than a single big chance, as the visitors very much held their own at Camp Nou.
We'll find out who goes through to the #UEL QF next week in Istanbul!#BarcaGalatasaray #BarcavGS pic.twitter.com/162EyNB0o8
Barca did create chances but lacked the urgency and movement required and that we’ve seen so much of recently. The changes at half-time helped a little but Barca couldn’t translate their possession into goals.
Dembele was lively after coming on but largely wasteful, Adama showed flashes of inspiration but lacked an end-product, and too often the hosts resorting to simply sending aimless crosses into the penalty area.
Tough night for Nico
It was a particularly tough night for Nico, who was handed a rare place in the starting XI, but was deservedly hooked at half-time after a quiet showing.
The 20-year-old has been, surprisingly, the only player to feature in every match under Xavi so far and certainly deserved a chance from the start.
However, Nico was far too slow and ponderous in possession, which allowed Gala to regroup quickly, and seemed unwilling to take any risks at all.
All of which was a real shame as this was a great chance for Nico to prove his worth as a starter in what was a key game for Barca.
The introduction of Busquets et al at half-time helped Barca improve in the second half and play higher up the pitch.
Nico will obviously get more chances but may have to wait a while for another start. He’ll also miss the team’s next game against Osasuna through suspension.
Barca need another Napoli
Barca’s draw against Galatasaray may be a disappointment but the tie is far from done and is very finely poised ahead of the return in Turkey.
Away games at Gala are never easy, as we all know, but on the plus side the hosts will have to come out and play which should help Barcelona out.
The Catalans can also draw strength from the last round when they faced another tricky away test at Napoli and passed with flying colours and a 4-0 victory.
A similar performance will be needed in a week’s time if Barca are to progress to the quarter-finals but it certainly won’t be easy.
Gala haven’t lost at home in Europe this season and beat Marseille and Lazio at the Nef Stadyumu in the group stages.