Barca’s title hopes fizzle out
Barcelona headed into Sunday’s match still with a chance of winning La Liga but those hopes fizzled out completely as the hosts crashed to a miserable defeat against Celta in their final home game of 2020-21.
It was a familar story as Barcelona once again passed up a host of chances to put the game out of sight and were then undone by some nonsense defending. It’s something we’ve seen a lot this season and to see it once again shows this team is going nowhere at present.
The way Barca reeled in Atletico with a 19-match unbeaten run was truly impressive but since then, and when it counted, the Catalans have managed just one win in five. They could even end the season in fourth if they lose again against Eibar in their final match.
Koeman hanging by a thread
Coach Ronald Koeman was under pressure before the match and looks to be hanging by a thread now. There’s no doubt it was a bad result, but it was the nature of the performance that might really do for the Dutchman.
RAC1 reported after the match that president Joan Laporta is “99%” decided that he will dispense with Koeman after the season, and the only thing that might stop the Dutchman being fired is the lack of replacement.
Koeman didn’t want to talk about his future after the match, offering only a curt, “That’s not a question for me.” Yet it’s a question that will keep being asked over the next week and it looks increasingly likely that Koeman’s time at Barcelona is up after just one season.
What about the defense?
Koeman will bear the brunt of the scrutiny after Sunday’s match but Barca’s defense is also under the spotlight once again. The talk ahead of the summer transfer window has all been about attackers (Aguero, Memphis, Haaland, and Neymar) but the money may be better spent on bringing in a top class center-back.
Clement Lenglet’s disastrous 2020-21 campaign ended in a red card, Gerard Pique has looked far below the required standard since coming back from knee trouble, while Samuel Umtiti is clearly not wanted and will be shipped out this summer.
Barca’s defensive woes also seem to have affected goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen. The German was unsighted but didn’t even move for Santi Mina’s opening goal and questions are being asked of the usually-reliable goalkeeper.
Of course, youngsters such as Ronald Araujo and Oscar Mingueza offer hope for the future, while Eric Garcia should also arrive on a free transfer from Manchester City. Yet Garcia is still only 20 and can’t be expected to fix Barca’s defensive problems.
Messi hits 30 La Liga goals
One of the few bright spots from Sunday’s match was the sight of Lionel Messi heading in Sergio Busquets’s cross to make it 30 La Liga goals for the season.
It’s another amazing landmark by the Barcelona captain who, hopefully, was not playing his last game for the club at the Camp Nou.
Lionel Messi has now scored 30+ goals in NINE different LaLiga seasons:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 16, 2021
✓ 2009/10 (34)
✓ 2010/11 (31)
✓ 2011/12 (50) - still bonkers
✓ 2012/13 (46)
✓ 2014/15 (43)
✓ 2016/17 (37)
✓ 2017/18 (34)
✓ 2018/19 (36)
✓ 2020/21 (30) - and counting
It was a different story entirely for Barcelona’s other forwards. Antoine Griezmann once again failed to make much of an impression, while Ousmane Dembele did cause problems but couldn’t find a goal.
Martin Braithwaite had a great chance to restore Barca’s lead after coming on as a substitute but somehow managed to miss, and Francisco Trincao also arrived but never really looked like doing anything remotely dangerous.
Koeman admitted after the game “we need more players to score goals” which is glaringly obvious. They’ll need even more if Messi decides it is time to move on this summer.
Riqui Puig finally gets a chance
After barely featuring all season Riqui Puig finally got a precious 45 minutes of first-team game time on Sunday. The midfielder arrived for a clearly tired Pedri and offered a typically lively showing.
It wasn’t a perfect performance by any means, not surprising given the amount of time he’s spent on the bench, but was surely enough to demonstrate once again he has something to offer on a more regular basis.
The midfielder also offered a pretty defiant message on social media after the game. He wrote on Instagram, “Tough year but I’m sure this will make us stronger for the future. We are Barca and we will always fight for everything. Now more than ever Long live Barça!”
The latest rumors have suggested Puig will still be at Barcelona next season and Laporta wants to see more of the youngster on the pitch. It may need a change of manager for that to happen, and Puig is one player who surely won’t be too sad to see the back of Koeman.