Embarrassing end to the year for Barca
Barcelona played their final La Liga game of 2023 against Almeria and while it ended in a 3-2 win for the hosts it felt more like a defeat such was the level of performance by Xavi’s side.
The Barca boss would have been hoping for a comfortable win against La Liga’s only winless side to get his team back on track after defeats to Girona in La Liga and Antwerp in the Champions League and a bore draw with Valencia.
Instead Barcelona served up another incoherent mess of a match with the players looking utterly confused. There was more shambolic defending, some impressive misses but somehow they kept going and ground out the win.
İLKAY GÜNDOĞAN MISSES AN OPEN GOAL TO GIVE BARCELONA THE LEAD AGAINST LAST PLACE ALMERIA— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) December 20, 2023
HOW DID HE NOT SCORE pic.twitter.com/UpK1sEb3mK
One of the biggest positives of the night was the fact that Barca will now get a break over the festive period and have a chance to reset. Vitor Roque will also arrive between now and Barca’s next game which will hopefully give the team a much-needed boost.
Barca gift Almeria Christmas presents
Almeria had only ever scored two goals away at Barcelona in their entire history before last night but managed to bag a double, thanks largely to the hosts’ defense.
The usually reliable Ronald Araujo made an error for the visitors’ first goal and then jumped into Inaki Pena, which saw the goalkeeper drop the ball, as Almeria grabbed a second.
What’s perhaps more worrying is that Almeria also had plenty of other chances to score.
2 - Since at least 2007/08 season, #Barcelona have made two errors that ended in goals in the same @LaLigaEn game for only the fifth time in the competition, the first since May 2019 v Eibar. Disorder.— OptaJose (@OptaJose) December 20, 2023
Xavi seemed surprised after the game and was not at all happy with his team when he spoke to reporters.
“We suffered much more than I expected,” he said. “We had 30 shots and gifted them two goals. The first half is unacceptable. As a coach you can’t accept that — I told [the players] that at half-time.”
Barcelona have now conceded 21 goals in La Liga this season, that’s more than the whole of the previous campaign when Xavi’s side shipped only 20 on the way to the title.
The two goals Barca conceded against Almeria were self-inflicted, as has been the story so often this season, but there seems little signs of the situation improving right now.
Sergi Roberto is the unlikely hero
In the end Barcelona had none other than Sergi Roberto thank for the three points. The captain, who has barely featured since taking the armband this season, bagged a brace for the first time in his career to secure the win.
The first was a fine flicked header from a Raphinha corner to put Barcelona 2-1 up. Yet Almeria equalised again which left Barca needing their captain to step up once more.
And step up he did. This time Robert Lewandowki, who once again missed a host of chances, was involved by teeing up the captain late on in the game.
Roberto then popped up with a great touch and finish to finally put Almeira away. He nearly bagged a hat-trick shortly afterwards too but his effort hit the woodwork.
It was a vital contribution from the captain and one that rather summed up Barca’s night. Despite all the superstars and big-money signings on show it was the academy graduate, much-maligned these days and tipped to leave in the summer, who showed the spirit needed to get the win.