Barcelona suffered their first loss of 2023 in domestic competition and wasted the chance of going 10 points clear at the top of the table thanks to an embarrassing 1-0 defeat away to Almería. Barça were awful all night and lost their second game in three days, and they now go into a massive Copa del Rey semi-final against Real Madrid playing their worst football of the season.
Here are the winners and losers from Sunday’s action in Almería.
Note: Applying the labels “winners” and “losers” is not intended to be a judgment on the talent or character of any of these players. It’s just a simple way to grade their performance in a single game. No disrespect is intended.
Angel Alarcón: It’s hard to find anything to be happy about after such a terrible defeat, but young striker Angel Alarcón had an important contribution off the bench. He was one of the very few players who seemed to care at all about the game, and he was responsible for the only shot on target from Barça in the entire match. With all forwards struggling in this one, Alarcón certainly made a case to get real minutes in the next few games.
Pablo Torre: The other youngster who came off the bench in the second half was the forgotten man in the squad but showed Xavi Hernández that he deserves more playing time. Like Alarcón he actually played with urgency and intensity, and showed some really nice composure and dribbling skills in tight spaces and was the only midfielder interested in moving the ball quickly so the Almería defense didn’t feel so comfortable. An important night for Torre, who like Alarcón definitely deserves more chances.
Xavi Hernández: Another really bad night for the boss, who selected a lineup that was way too defensive against what was always going to be a parked bus from Almería, and waited 30 minutes in the second half to bring on Torre and Alarcón. He continues his fixation with Marcos Alonso who once again had zero impact on the game, and there were no tactical adjustments at all. It’s ultimately his responsibility even though the players also deserve a ton of blame for this showing, but the boss offered very little solutions on a night full of problems. Again.
Gavi: Even though he always plays on the edge and gets himself in trouble way too often through sheer immaturity, Gavi truly looked like an 18-year-old today. He could have easily been sent off for a couple of hard fouls and two embarrasing temper tantrums, and he’s now been suspended for the second time in a week. Every young player goes through bad spells, but Gavi is having a really rough time when the team needs him most with Pedri out.
Eric García: There is a reason Eric is Barça’s fourth center-back, and after a poor showing against Cádiz last week he was even worse today. He put no pressure on the ball in the buildup to Almería’s goal, and he was constantly bullied off the ball and late on his interceptions. He was also well below par with his passing, and the positioning problems that plague him were fully on show in this one. Tough night for the Spaniard.