No trophies this season?
Barcelona’s Europa League exit at the hands of Eintracht Frankfurt ended the Blaugrana’s European journey this season and almost certainly cost them the chance to win a trophy in Xavi Hernández’s debut campaign in charge.
Barça now turn their attentions back to La Liga as they have eight games left and sit in second place, currently 12 points behind Real Madrid with a game in hand. Los Blancos have a tough remaining schedule and have a Champions League semi-final against Manchester City to worry about as well, so it is at least possible Carlo Ancelotti’s team could drop enough points to make the run-in interesting.
Barça have a more favorable run of games compared to their biggest rivals so a push for the title is possible, but to have a real chance they simply have to win all eight games. The Europa League was certainly the easiest road to a trophy, but that road is now closed.
Another poor performance raises concerns
Barça went into last month’s international break as the hottest team in Europe after a sensational victory in El Clásico, but since returning from the break they haven’t been the same. The results are mostly good especially in the league, but the Europa League exit combined with three straight subpar performances are certainly a cause for concern.
The two Frankfurt matches were some of the most disappointing under Xavi, and as epic as it was the win against Levante last Sunday also showed some worrying signs for the first 60 minutes. The schedule has been very busy and playing every Thursday and Sunday is a huge fitness challenge especially for a squad without much depth, so it’s possible that mental and physical fatigue have played a part as well.
In theory Barça have a comfortable game against Cádiz at home on Monday to return to winning ways and play well again, but there’s not much time to rest with Real Sociedad next Thursday and Rayo Vallecano just three days after that. The schedule will stay busy, and Xavi and his men will have to find a way to recapture the magic from February and March to continue winning.
Pedri injury a tough blow
The 2021 Golden Boy winner has been ruled out for the rest of the season with a torn hamstring, which is a very significant blow to Barça’s chances of winning their remaining games to stay in contention for the league. Pedri was arguably Barça’s best player over the last three months, getting better and more dominant with every game.
Thankfully for Barça there is enough depth in midfield to at least try and make up for his absence: Frenkie De Jong was ill and not at 100% against Frankfurt but should be back to his best soon, Gavi continues to play very well and Nico González will get a real chance to reestablish himself after a couple of subpar performances. Riqui Puig might also earn some minutes between now and the end of the season, so there is enough talent to keep Barça’s midfield strong.
But Pedri is a special talent who was enjoying the best run of form of his young career, and he will be sorely missed.
Óscar Mingueza’s wasted opportunity
Without Gerard Piqué and Dani Alves and with Sergiño Dest not fit enough to start, Mingueza was given a golden opportunity by Xavi to earn his trust and more minutes at the end of the season. The full-back has been out of the coach’s plans for some time now, but he had a chance to kick the door wide open with a strong showing on Thursday.
Unfortunately that didn’t happen, and Mingueza once again showed he’s not quite at the same level as the rest of his teammates at the back. Going up against a talent like Filip Kostic is not easy, especially without having played a lot recently, but Mingueza looked largely unequipped to deal with the Serbian winger while also offering next to nothing when Barça had the ball. Mingueza is certainly not to blame for the loss on a night when the whole team was below par, but he definitely did not do much to earn more playing time.
Mingueza had a good season last year under Ronald Koeman and looked like he could become a very useful backup with Xavi at the helm, but time seems to be running out on the 22-year-old’s chances of a real future with Barça.
Frankfurt fans invade Camp Nou
The most shocking aspect of Thursday’s game was not the result or Frankfurt’s historic victory: it was the fact that 30,000 fans of the German club found their way into the stadium and turned Barça’s stadium into a Frankfurt home game.
Frankfurt fans SHOWED UP to the Camp Nou ️ pic.twitter.com/9XOH2Hin3e— B/R Football (@brfootball) April 14, 2022
According to several reports there were only 5,000 tickets allocated to Frankfurt supporters, but over 25,000 German fans bought their tickets from Barcelona sócios who decided to not attend the game and make a little extra money instead.
The singing section of Camp Nou made a silent protest against the fans who sold their tickets by leaving their seats empty during the first 10 minutes of the second half, and president Joan Laporta said he was outraged by the situation and promised to launch an investigation and take measures to avoid a similar scenario in the future.