Valverde might not last much longer at Barcelona
Ernesto Valverde came into Saturday’s match under pressure after the club’s Champions League exit at Liverpool and that will only increase after another poor cup defeat.
Once again the Barcelona boss got his starting line-up wrong, and although he made changes at half-time the damage had already been done.
Goals from Kevin Gameiro and Rodrigo had Valencia 2-0 up at the break and in charge of the match, in truth they could have had more.
It was a performance that was not a complete surprise either. Valverde was unable to inspire his team to ditch their current gloom and compete with Valencia, there was a complete lack of pace in attack and Barca seemed to just be hoping Lionel Messi could win it all by himself.
The Copa del Rey holders were also far too easy to play against, as Valencia picked them off on the break and found acres of space to run into.
The Barcelona boss must take the blame for this one, although it has to be said there were poor performers all over the pitch, only Messi, Gerard Pique and second-half substitute Malcom looked interested.
Valverde has been backed before and after this game by president Josep Maria Bartomeu and his players, but his future at the club has never been more uncertain.
Even Messi can’t save Barca
Captain Messi spoke about the importance of winning the Copa del Rey ahead of the match “if we don’t win, we will be a lot worse than we are now” but even he couldn’t lead a revival.
The Argentinian was left isolated in attack, particularly in the first half, but still managed to score and set yet another record.
He might have had another too but was denied by the woodwork with an audacious outside of the boot effort from inside the penalty area.
The absence of Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele in attack was keenly felt, while Philippe Coutinho put in another anonymous showing after going straight back into the team after injury.
Messi’s brilliance has masked plenty of Barcelona’s failings this season, but this defeat serves to highlight again how the club need to help him out and strengthen their attack.
Changes are needed over the summer
Barcelona’s limp end to the season will prompt much debate about the direction the club is headed in despite winning La Liga comfortably and is likely to see changes over the summer.
It remains to be seen if Valverde will continue at the club, but a change in mentality is required if the team are to put the disappointments of this season aside and progress.
While Valverde has won two league titles and the Copa del Rey in his two seasons with Barcelona he has continually attracted criticism with social media currently awash with calls for his sacking.
The players have continued to back their boss but his unpopular playing style, perceived preference of certain players, predictable substitutions and failures in the Champions League mean his position is far from secure. Yet despite all that there is no obvious candidate to replace Valverde with.
As well as the manager there will also be changes in the squad. Frenkie de Jong will arrive in July, he might even bring Matthijs de Ligt with him, while Antoine Griezmann could also pitch up after announcing he’s leaving Atletico Madrid.
Meanwhile, back-ups to Luis Suarez and Jordi Alba are needed, and Barcelona will need to be smart in the transfer market to ensure they are bringing in players who can rejuvenate and improve the team.
There are also a number of players being tipped to leave. Philippe Coutinho is the most high-profile after a tough second season, while Ivan Rakitic’s name keeps popping up when it comes to transfer rumors despite his continued insistence he wants to stay.
Barcelona have some big decisions to make this summer over who stays, who leaves and who comes in which should make for an intriguing few months at the Camp Nou.