Barcelona suffer at Balaidos again
Barcelona have found it tough going at Balaidos in recent years and it proved to be the case once again on Saturday as the Catalan giants roared into a 3-0 lead and then promptly threw all three points away.
The first half was great to watch with Ansu Fati scoring another fine goal, Sergio Busquets grabbing a rare strike, while Memphis Depay finished off a lovely team move with a goal that looked to have finished Celta off.
However, things started to go wrong when Fati was sadly forced off with a hamstring injury, followed by Eric Garcia at half-time and then Nico Gonzalez. Fati and Nico may still only be teenagers but Barca seemed to fall apart without the duo on the pitch.
Alejandro Balde, Ronald Araujo, Riqui Puig, and Ez Abde all arrived but Celta smelt blood at half-time and took full advantage of the visitors’ fragility. The equalizer finally came in the 97th minute through Iago Aspas and felt cruel but certainly not undeserved.
Busquets actually scored a goal
The sight of Sergio Busquets scoring an actual goal led many to believe the ‘Xavi effect’ was in full flow. The midfielder doubled Barca’s lead with a sweet strike for just his 16th goal in almost 650 appearances for the Catalan giants.
It’s also the captain’s first goal for 20 months since he netted in the 3-2 win over Real Betis.
Barca have been shot-shy all season so the sight of a player actually going for goal and finding the back of the net was a welcome one. Perhaps they should do it more often. Just a thought.
It’s no secret Barca have struggled for goals from midfield. This was obviously Busquets’s first of the season, while Frenkie de Jong, Pedri, Gavi, Riqui Puig and Nico are yet to manage a single strike between them.
De Jong did almost open his account for the season after a great run but saw his shot skim the crossbar and fly to safety. Barca haven’t been able to get the best out of their midfielders consistently but will hope the arrival of Xavi can change all that.
Barca must address injury problems
The loss of another three players to injury raises serious questions about Barca’s methods which surely need to be addressed as a priority. The Catalans have now seen 15 different players injured already this season and it’s only the start of November.
The report from MD also notes there have been 20 different injuries and 14 of those have been muscular. There will no doubt be increased scrutiny on the team’s medical staff and the current training methods after Saturday’s game.
Meanwhile, former Barca winger Konrad de la Fuente has been the latest player to come out recently and admit he was surprised at the intensity of training sessions at Marseille compared to what he was used to at Barcelona.
There have already been reports that Xavi wants to overhaul the club’s medical services and is keen to bring back Dr Ricard Pruna who left the club in 2020 after 25 years in charge of the medical department.
The only good news on the injury front is that Barcelona don’t play again for two weeks, due to the international break, which does provide time for some of the injured players to recover.
Did Coutinho refuse to come on?
One player who has returned from injury but still didn’t play on Saturday was Philippe Coutinho who was left out of the starting XI once again by Sergi Barjuan.
The Brazilian did appear to be coming on to replace Ansu Fati at the end of the first half but the substitution didn’t take place.
It’s not entirely clear what happened either but there are various rumors circulating. One theory is that Coutinho simply refused to come on although it’s not clear why.
Another suggestion is that Barjuan was not impressed with Coutinho’s response when he asked him to warm up and so left him on the bench instead.
Barjuan was asked about the incident after the game but didn’t want to get into it at his post-match press conference in what was his last match in charge of the first team. He’ll now head back to Barca B.
Yet it’s not a good look for the Brazilian who looks completely finished at Barcelona. The only question seems to be whether the Catalan giants will be able to find a new home for the 29-year-old in the January transfer window.
What’s going on with Ter Stegen?
Coutinho wasn’t the only player under scruntiny with goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen conceding three times from just four shots on target.
There has been growing criticism about the previously untouchable Germany international this season and there’s no doubt at all he made a mess of Celta’s first goal from Aspas that let the hosts back into the game.
The 29-year-old certainly seems to struggle when he comes up against Aspas who seems to love taking on the Barcelona goalkeeper.
7 - Iago Aspas has scored seven goals, all of them in #LaLiga, vs Marc André Ter Stegen , more than any other player in the competition (Maxi Gómez five) & in all competitions both (Aritz Aduriz six). Nightmare@RCCeltaEN #CeltaBarça pic.twitter.com/7olG8kgQWg— OptaJose (@OptaJose) November 6, 2021
There are certainly questions being asked of Ter Stegen this season ahead of Xavi’s arrival. The goalkeeper is one of five players in the squad that shared a dressing room with the new boss who has already spoken about what it will be like to manage his former team-mates.
“I know five players very well because they were teammates and I see it as a positive point because I know how they train,” he told Mundo Deportivo. “I know how they are, and they are the team captains. I see it as an advantage.”
It will be interesting to see how Xavi handles the veterans in the squad, particularly with so much young and exciting talent around, and his teamsheet for the derby against Espanyol on November 20 will be eagerly anticipated.