Tuesday night’s match at Son Moix against Mallorca provided the perfect opportunity for Barcelona to cement their position at the top of the Spanish top-flight, but it’s one they failed to take.
Had the home side’s attack been a little less profligate with their chances, Xavi and his team would have been looking at a defeat. It was a Groundhog Day of sorts with many of the mistakes that were on show against Celta Vigo at the weekend being seen again.
Defensively Barca were off the pace for long periods and that’s going to be a cause for concern. What was arguably their biggest strength last season is already proving to be their Achilles heel.
Indeed, the Blaugranes have now conceded as many goals in their seven La Liga games this season (eight) as they did in the first 25 matches of the 2022-23 campaign.
The addition of Inigo Martinez was necessary to allow some rotation ahead of what’s expected to be a busy period, though it wasn’t too long before his ‘Hollywood’ passes were being picked off by the opposition and putting Barca right back into trouble.
There’s a time and a place for 50 yard cross-field passes, and against Mallorca wasn’t it.
It wasn’t a surprise when he was subbed off for Jules Kounde, though the Frenchman hardly covered himself in glory either.
With no Frenkie de Jong in midfield - a situation that’s likely to stay the same for a good few weeks - there could be trouble ahead, and Oriol Romeu has already identified a worrying pattern which could be having a direct impact on the defence’s ability to perform too.
“It was difficult right from the start. There wasn’t a lot of room on the pitch,” he said. “We weren’t able to dominate the game as we wanted to,” he said.
“We have to get better because it’s two games now where this has happened us. We’re making it too easy for opponents to attack us on the counter. “I think the fact that teams can counter-attack so easily is causing us problems. We don’t have enough possession in the opposition’s half.”
The table doesn’t lie of course and purely based on results, it’s encouraging to see that Barca are the top scorers in the division and, along with fellow Catalans, Girona, are the only unbeaten sides in the division.
That can’t be allowed to mask their failings that were fully on show again, however.
Joao Cancelo had said post-Celta that he’d played a ‘very bad game,’ though he was better against the Galicians than he was on Tuesday night. He doesn’t get a free pass but he is only a few games into his Barca career so can be cut a little slack.
Alejandro Balde gets no such concession. Lightning fast he may be, but we need to start seeing an end product from the youngster when he gets forward and much more tenacity defensively.
It may be a question of upper body strength but he’s knocked off the ball far too easily by more physical opponents, leaving Barca exposed down that side.
In my opinion, we look a far more balanced and solid side when Andreas Christensen is in situ in centrally too, and he was sorely missed last night.
Ronald Araujo/Inigo and Ronald Araujo/Kounde just didn’t work.
Xavi needs to come up with the solution quickly because with so many games between now and the end of November, Barca’s season could be significantly derailed before it has begun.