Pressure is back on Valverde
Barcelona’s defeat to Levante piles the pressure right back on Ernesto Valverde after a few months of respite for the 55-year-old.
Valverde was lucky to escape the sack at the end of last season, came under pressure again after early defeats to Athletic Bilbao and Granada but had seen his team respond with seven straight wins.
Yet Barcelona’s capitulation against Levante, the team’s dismal showing, Valverde’s set up and inability to change the game as well as his decision to leave Ousmane Dembele out of his squad will attract deserved criticism.
The fixture list should give Valverde some relief going into the international break. Games against Slavia Prague and Celta are both at the Camp Nou and may yield maximum points but there’s no escaping this was another bad day for Valverde.
Suarez injury may be good news for Griezmann
Luis Suarez has also come under fire this season for some pretty poor displays, but he is still the club’s top scorer and has managed eight goals in all competitions for Barca.
Yet the Uruguayan is now set for a spell out of the team after picking up a leg injury against Levante that saw him taken off four minutes before half-time.
Barcelona have confirmed he’s out of action but have stopped short of indicating when he will return. However, it does mean the focus will switch to Antoine Griezmann while Suarez is out, and the Uruguayan’s absence could be good news for the Frenchman.
Griezmann has not made quite the impact at Barcelona that would have been expected from a player who cost €120m but has largely been stationed out wide on the left.
Suarez’s injury means Valverde will have to make changes to his attack and could see Griezmann given a chance through the middle.
The World Cup winner has netted four times for Barca this season but will need to help replace Suarez’s goals while the striker is sidelined.
Barcelona stay top but poor away form continues
Barcelona’s away form this season makes pretty woeful reading but somehow they still top La Liga despite Saturday’s defeat at Levante.
Real Madrid were unable to take advantage and were held to a 0-0 draw by Real Betis, while Atletico Madrid also dropped points at Sevilla and remain a point behind the leaders.
The Catalan giants will lose top spot if Granada beat Sociedad in a tasty-looking tie on Sunday but will still have a game in hand on Diego Martinez’s side.
All of which is a bit of a surprise given Barca’s continued struggles this season. Saturday’s defeat was their third in 11 games and highlighted again their vulnerability away from home
Barcelona have won two, drawn one and lost three of their away matches in La Liga this season and travel to Leganes, Atletico and Sociedad before the end of the year.
The club’s formidable home form is what is keeping them at the top of the table for now, but they won’t retain their title unless Valverde can cure their travel sickness.