Clean sheets still in short supply
Barcelona progressed to the last 16 of the Copa del Rey with a hard-fought but ultimately uninspiring 3-2 win over fourth-tier side Barbastro.
Xavi was taking no chances with his one, naming a strong XI and including the likes of Frenkie de Jong, Ronald Araujo, Raphinha and Frenkie de Jong in his team.
Enjoy the highlights of our 1st game in the Copa del Rey— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) January 7, 2024
Barbastro vs Barça pic.twitter.com/6r2qw4xSCD
Barcelona started well and went ahead after just 18 minutes but made hard work of it as they conceded twice and “suffered more than necessary”- according to the boss.
The hosts’ two goals mean that Barcelona have now conceded 13 goals in their last six competitive games and have not kept a single clean sheet in any of those matches.
Barcelona have also failed to win by more than a single goal in their last 20 outings. Xavi’s side may have won on Sunday night but it was anything but comfortable once again.
Hector Fort delivers for Barcelona
One of the bright spots of Barcelona’s win was the performance of 17-year-old defender Hector Fort in the visitors’ backline. Credit must also go to Fermin Lopez too for another lively showing.
Fort played out of position on the left of defense but enjoyed himself and came up with a brilliant assist for Raphinha to make it 2-0 to the Catalan giants.
The teenager spoke of his delight at being able to start after the match.
“The truth is that it is everything, it is an honour, I am very grateful, it is a privilege and I try to take advantage of everything I can, all the minutes the coach gives me. I’m very grateful,” he said.
“It is true that it is a new position, but I like to attack, I like to try to generate opportunities, do the best I can and that I have tried to do, get the best of me in that position to help the team.”
Fort only made his first-team debut in December but will have done his hopes of more senior minutes no harm at all with his showing against Barbastro.
Doubts growing over Joao Felix
It was a different story altogether for Joao Felix who was restored to the starting XI but had another tough night.
It has to be said that Felix was a little unlucky not to get on the scoresheet. He did put the ball in the back of the net only to see his goal ruled out for offside. Replays suggest it was a bad call, but with no VAR available the decision stood.
Felix cut a frustrated figure throughout the game which didn’t really help his cause, and the stats simply show how he failed to trouble the fourth-tier side.
The Portugal international lost possession 15 times, won just one of his seven duels and didn’t complete any of his five dribbles, according to Sofascore.
Meanwhile, the rumor mill is already churning out reports that Barca are starting to doubt the wisdom of signing Felix permanently. He certainly didn’t do his chances of staying at the club for the long-term any favors with this performance .