Barcelona’s trophy hopes go up in smoke
Barcelona exited the Copa del Rey on Wednesday and look set for a trophyless campaign unless a miraculous turnaround in form occurs. The Copa represented Barca’s best chance of silverware in the current campaign but those hopes are over now.
Xavi’s side sit eight points behind Girona in La Liga and face Napoli in the Champions League. There’s been precious little evidence so far this season to suggest they can win either competition.
Postgame analysis of today's match pic.twitter.com/F7p1vEKMdf— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) January 25, 2024
Barca’s habit of conceding early remains an issue. Xavi looked fairly thunderous on the touchline after watching Gorka Guruzeta capitalise on some dozy defending to fire Athletic ahead.
Incredibly it’s not even the quickest Barca have conceded so far this season. They went behind to Granada after just 17 seconds and Alaves after 18 seconds. It’s a nasty habit that’s really hurting the team.
Xavi admitted after the game he has to win trophies to keep his job and this defeat will likely fuel more speculation about his future. As things stand, it seems increasingly likely he could part ways with Barca this summer.
Bittersweet night for Lamine
Lamine Yamal was involved in almost everything at a ferocious San Mames against Athletic as he added yet another record to his collection at the tender age of 16.
Barca’s latest starlet scored a truly wonderful goal to make it 2-1, gliding down the right wing, easing past defenders and then coming up with a wicked finish. We all know exactly who it reminded us all of.
1 - Lamine Yamal (16 years, 195 days) became the youngest player to score in the Copa del Rey in the 21st century, surpassing Juanmi Jiménez, who did so aged 16 years and 238 days for Malaga in January 2010. Sensation. pic.twitter.com/ruTEbLVcn5— OptaJose (@OptaJose) January 24, 2024
Yes, he went on to miss two great chances to put Barca ahead at 2-2 but let’s not forget he is still only 16 and is still learning. His swift apology after the match showed how much he’s hurting.
Both Xavi and Ronald Araujo were quick to defend Lamine after the game. He may have missed a couple but we all know there’s plenty more magic to come from our young star.
“Just imagine the player that Lamine Yamal will be in three years,” pondered Ernesto Valverde after the match after seeing his team tormented by the teenager all night.
Barca show off another gem in Hector Fort
Barcelona’s youngsters have been impressing all season, and Hector Fort can be added to the lengthy list of La Masia products bidding for a first-team spot.
The 17-year-old right-back came on to replace the injured Alejandro Balde midway through the first half and had a great game on the left of the defense.
It was a very difficult match to come into, but the youngster showed courage and personality and looked comfortable despite being played out of position.
There’s a good chance he may see more game time going forwards too. Balde looked like he may be set for some time out, while Marcos Alonso is also injured currently.
Joao Cancelo is also an option to play on the left after returning to full fitness, but Fort certainly staked a claim for more first-team minutes at San Mames.