Almeria pick up first ever win against Barcelona
Barcelona headed to Almeria aiming to go 10 points clear at the top of La Liga and pretty much put one hand on the trophy after seeing Real Madrid drop points in the Madrid derby on Saturday night.
0 - #Almería ⚪️ are winless in their 13 games against @FCBarcelona in @LaLigaEn (D2 L11), conceding three goals-per-game on average. They have faced the Azulgranas more times without winning in the top-flight than any other opponent. Challenge. pic.twitter.com/ydt6NdhtnX— OptaJose (@OptaJose) February 26, 2023
The Catalans had never lost to Almeria before and the result seemed a certainty, even Frenkie de Jong admitted that Barcelona weren’t expecting to lose on Sunday night.
But lose they certainly did in a performance a furious Xavi branded as his team’s worst of the season. He wasn’t wrong either.
Barcelona had over 70% possession but conceded a sloppy goal, lacked intensity, fight, passion, sense and barely posed Rubi’s struggling side any danger at all. The Catalans mustered one shot on target throughout the 90 minutes which tells you all you need to know.
Xavi mentioned fatigue after the match, which may well be a factor, but the team’s lack of cohesion or even the vague semblance of a game plan was far more of a problem here.
It’s been a bad week for Xavi
Sunday’s defeat made it a very bad week for Xavi. The coach saw his team’s European dreams end in midweek at Old Trafford and a surprise loss at Almeria means his team are really wobbling.
Barca still have a healthy seven-point lead at the top of the table but defeat to Real Madrid on Thursday in the Copa del Rey will increase Xavi’s problems ahead of Sunday’s visit from Valencia in La Liga.
Xavi won’t be on the touchline for that game either. The coach is banned after being booked again versus Almeria and will have to watch the game from the stands.
Barcelona’s resilience and strength in depth will certainly be tested in that game. Gavi, Pedri, and Ousmane Dembele are all out and Xavi will need others to step up in their absence.
Look away now Eric Garcia
Eric Garcia was back in the starting XI against Almeria in a game which saw Barcelona concede just their eighth goal of the season in La Liga.
Dig a little deeper and you find out that five of the eight goals that Barcelona have let in this season have come when Eric’s been on the pitch. Dig deeper still and you realize that of the 10 games played without Eric, Barcelona have conceded just three goals.
Many Culers are focusing criticism of tonight's defeat on Eric García— La Liga Lowdown ⚽️ (@LaLigaLowdown) February 26, 2023
❌ Five of the eight goals Barcelona have conceded in LaLiga this season have come with him on the pitch
Do you blame him for the loss, or was it a poor performance from the whole team?#LLL
All of which does not make good reading for Eric. Xavi has said recently that Eric deserves more playing time, but the fact he hasn’t had it speaks volumes. He’s the fourth choice center-back for a reason.
Eric has been justifiably criticized since returning to Barcelona from Manchester City and there have been whispers already that he could be sold this summer. At this point it would be no surprise at all to see him leave at the end of the season.
How many crosses?
Barcelona clearly ran out of attacking ideas against Almeria and simply resorted to firing crosses into the box. It was a tactic that didn’t work and was the sort of thing we saw previously when a certain Ronald Koeman was in charge.
Xavi even threw Ronald Araujo up front in the hope the center-back could find a goal but to no avail.
47 - #Barcelona have made 47 crosses against Almería ⚪️ , their highest tally in a single away game in @LaLigaEn since 2005/06. They failed to win all five games with 47+ crosses in the competition in this period (D3 L2). Siege. pic.twitter.com/IWlv5e8760— OptaJose (@OptaJose) February 26, 2023
Almeria boss Rubi admitted after the game that he was pretty happy to see Barcelona sending the ball into the penalty area time after time.
“When they are crossing, crossing, crossing, I think we are OK. We didn’t suffer in that area too much. I worried more when they played through the lines,” he said. “We worked extraordinarily hard, scored a goal we have worked on and our goalkeeper has hardly had a save to make. Everything came off and it’s a day we will remember for a long time.”
Barcelona’s attack is certainly a worry. Dembele is badly missed, Raphinha and Ferran Torres aren’t doing enough and Robert Lewandowski is in the middle of a slump that is really hurting Xavi’s side.
Pedri can’t come back soon enough
The loss of Pedri to injury is also being keenly felt at Barcelona. The midfielder may only be 20 but Barcelona are really struggling without him.
Last season Barcelona’s win percentage with Pedri in the team was 89%, dropping to 52% when he was absent. Pedri has now missed Barcelona’s last three games and has seen his team lose two without him.
Gavi was back in the team after missing out in midweek but looked lost without his mate next to him. The supply line to Lewandowski is also broken without Pedri around to supply Barcelona’s creativity.
Xavi now has some big decisions to make for the next couple of games, with Pedri not expected back for another couple of weeks.
The midfielder’s been nicknamed ‘Pedri Potter’ by fans in Spain but Xavi badly needs someone else to come up with some magic over the next few weeks.