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Xavi must shoulder the blame for an abysmal Barcelona performance

Shakhtar deserved winners

FC Shakhtar Donetsk v FC Barcelona: Group H - UEFA Champions League 2023/24 Photo by Mateusz Slodkowski/Getty Images

In a game that Barcelona didn’t need to win, for long periods they looked just like a team that didn’t want to win.

Unbelievably flat throughout, they were outfought and out-thought far too often all over the pitch. Even whilst doffing one’s cap to Shakhtar who did themselves proud, it’s right to condemn the Blaugranes for a scandalous performance.

The entire playing staff need to take a long, hard look at themselves if they think they were Barca class in Hamburg, however, Xavi will absolutely need to carry the can on this one.

Just because it appeared to be the perfect opportunity to rotate, it doesn’t mean to say that he had to. Get the job done first and then rest players.

After this defeat, Xavi’s record in Europe makes for awful reading and places a question mark on his capabilities at the highest level, two years on from taking the reins at the club.

On the night, dare I say it, but the weakest link could’ve been picked from a number of players who, frankly, weren’t focused on the job in hand from the opening exchanges.

Robert Lewandowski is masquerading as a proven centre-forward at present. The Polish hit-man was nowhere to be seen half the time, and this malaise has been going on far too long for it to be a ‘blip.’

At present he’s embarrassingly flat-footed and reactive, whereas last season he’d sniff out the chance and invariably take it.

Relying far too heavily on service that never comes, his lack of movement up front has become a real problem.

He’s no longer the centre-forward Barca thought they were buying and he surely can’t seriously be considered as a regular starter from this point.

The problems in front of goal aren’t solely down to him of course and after 68 minutes the visitors had only had one shot on target.

Ferran Torres was given yet another chance to impress and, once again, fluffed his lines.

One can normally point to the Spaniard’s work rate as something to laud in the absence of goals or assists, but that wasn’t even on show on Tuesday evening.

FC Shakhtar Donetsk v FC Barcelona: Group H - UEFA Champions League 2023/24 Photo by Mateusz Slodkowski/Getty Images

Xavi has to be a little more ruthless with players that clearly don’t cut it at the elite level because Barcelona aren’t a charity case where those that can’t perform go to see out their playing days.

Shape up or be shipped out.

Oriol Romeu produced yet another laboured performance and it really showed against a willing side that had a bit of zip and desire about them.

For all of his physical attributes, it’s become blindingly obvious that Romeu isn’t the right fit for this particular team. A Barca player he may be, he can’t be considered part of Xavi’s iteration for too much longer because he’s becoming a liability.

The game passed him by far too often, and his consistent lack of speed and awareness continues to cause the Catalans all sorts of issues.

Frenkie de Jong can’t come back soon enough to give the midfield some balance.

Joao Cancelo and Raphinha were others who should take a good look in the mirror after their contributions.

The Brazilian huffed and puffed for the duration of the time he was on the pitch, with Cancelo much the same in terms of a lack of output.

Their laziness in not tracking back should serve as an example of what not to do for young players and underscored all that was wrong on a night where just one point could’ve seen Xavi rotate to his heart’s content in the final two group games.

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