Barca heading into the Europa League again?
Barcelona’s defeat to Inter leaves the Catalans in trouble in Group C and suddenly facing the very real prospect of dropping into the Europa League for a second straight season.
Xavi’s already made it clear how he feels Barcelona have been given the worst possible draw in the Champions League and Inter made his fears come true with a hard-fought win.
Barcelona started brightly, as they did against Bayern, and dominated possession but Inter always looked the more dangerous and took home all three points.
That’s now three straight defeats away from home in the Champions League for Barcelona and no goals scored in any of those games either. They never really looked like scoring at the San Siro either and two shots on goal speaks volume for their failures in attack.
3 - @FCBarcelona have not scored any goal in their last three away games in UEFA Champions League #UCL (L3), their worst away run in the competition's history. Drought. pic.twitter.com/AW4DcNDYMS— OptaJose (@OptaJose) October 4, 2022
Xavi does have time to turn it around but it will take a huge effort now to pip the Nerazzurri to second spot. The Catalans can blame decisions for the loss (more on that later) but the simple truth is they simply weren’t good enough.
Barca spent a fortune in the summer in the hope of bringing success back to the club swiftly, and the prospect of dropping out of the Champions League at the first hurdle would be a huge blow to the club both on the pitch and off it.
VAR takes the headlines
The match was of course shadowed by two key decisions that went against Barcelona and infuriated Xavi, his players and the supporters.
An equalizer from Pedri looked to have brought Barca back into the game but was then chalked off as the ball skimmed off Ansu Fati’s fingernails just before the midfielder finished.
Barca were annoyed by that decision and then further enraged when Denzel Dumfries escaped a similar incident in stoppage time.
Em câmera lenta. pic.twitter.com/F5bGcnmxfj— Marcelo Bechler (@marcelobechler) October 4, 2022
This time VAR said no handball and no penalty, leading Xavi to explode after the final whistle and call on match officials to explain their decisions after games.
Barcelona are reportedly so furious they are considering submitting a formal complaint to UEFA about the performance of official Slavko Vincic.
The rage and sense of injustice is understandable but Barca would be better off channeling that fury and using it as motivation for their next three Champions League games.
No Lewandowski goal, no win for Barca
Robert Lewandowski has been nothing short of superb for Barcelona so far this season but Inter clearly had a plan to shackle the Poland international and it worked perfectly.
The 34-year-old barely had a sniff all game long and drew a blank for just the third time in Barcelona colors. Yet the stats show that when Lewandowski doesn’t score, Barcelona don’t win.
Xavi’s side had bags of possession but are lacking creativity and penetration. Ousmane Dembele had plenty of opportunities but too often chose the wrong option, lost the ball or saw his cross into the box batted away by an Inter player.
2 - In the CL game v Inter, FC Barcelona completed their match with the lowest shots (7), shots on target (2) and xG ratio (0.5) in all competitions this season. Drop. pic.twitter.com/NAN4q2CFXB— OptaJose (@OptaJose) October 5, 2022
Raphinha was even worse and looked completely lost out on the left. You suspect there must be concerns about the two wingers and their end-product. The Brazilian has just one goal and one assist so far in 2022-23, while Dembele has scored twice and contributed four assists.
With some key games coming up at home and abroad over the next week or so it’s imperative Xavi finds an answer quickly to his attacking issues.
It’s been a fine start to the new campaign for Barcelona but failure to beat Inter next week and a poor result in El Clasico will change the feeling around the club dramatically.
Balde is Xavi’s best left-back option
Xavi also has issues in defense where it’s becoming clearer every game that 18-year-old Alejandro Balde is the team’s best option.
The teenager dropped out of the starting XI for this one as Xavi went with the experience of summer signing Marcos Alonso at left-back instead.
However, it was not a decision that went well. Balde eventually came on the final half an hour and did better in that time than Alonso had managed in his hour on the pitch.
The Spain international has only been used sparingly since arriving from Chelsea, making just three appearances, and has yet to show why Barca were so keen to bring him in.
Barcelona short of center-backs
Barcelona also have issues at center-back with Andreas Christensen going off in the second half with an ankle injury.
The Denmark international is another player whose arrival was hardly celebrated by fans but has enjoyed a solid start to his Barcelona career.
LATEST NEWS | Andreas Christensen has a ligament sprain in his left ankle. Further tests will be carried out tomorrow to find out the exact extent of the injury. pic.twitter.com/GC9HkHftJX— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) October 4, 2022
Yet it’s now being speculated he could miss the next three weeks, leaving Barcelona short of center-back options.
Gerard Pique came back into the fray to replace Christensen against Inter and will surely be needed now in the coming weeks.
The 35-year-old was fifth choice at the start of the season but is now back in the reckoning. Indeed Pique and Eric Garcia are Barca’s only fit center-backs currently, not an ideal situation given the hectic fixture schedule.