Tactical Insights

Lady Luck saves Barcelona as Napoli awaits

The time has come. Barcelona is back in the Champions League knockouts.

And yet, it feels anti-climactic. Perhaps as it should. Just being here isn’t good enough, and it would be strange for such a big club to be excited about such a small accomplishment.

But for Xavi, and Barcelona fans who have missed out on the action for years, it’s a big deal.

If we go back to the beginning of the season, we might remember that this Barcelona team started off strongly in both La Liga and the Champions League group stage.

Yes, it was probably one of the weakest groups in the competition, but Barcelona was taking care of business. More than they can say for the past two editions.

FC Barcelona v FC Porto - UEFA Champions League

Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

Things really fell apart for the team with Real Madrid’s remontada at Montjuic in October.

More than anything else, it was the fighting spirit and unity that died on that day. The qualities that were holding together a makeshift Barcelona team, duct taped together by the two Joaos loan signings.

What’s been exposed since then, highlighted once again in the last minute, narrow win, against Celta Vigo, is a lack of tactical identity.

There are talented individuals on this team that are capable of doing brilliance things at any moment.

Joao Felix can go it alone, and smash home a banger.

Joao Cancelo can cook anyone, and serve up a delicious assist.

Robert Lewandowski proved he can still send home a screamer.

Celta Vigo v FC Barcelona - LaLiga EA Sports

Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Lamine Yamal is the newest addition, now becoming goal dangerous as he marauds down the flank.

But you don’t go far in European competitions with individualism. You need to be strong, and able to dig deep, when adversity strikes and your back is against the ropes.

You need a team to overcome those moments. Unity makes strength.

And Barcelona doesn’t have it at the moment. That’s not to say they have a toxic dressing room. For all intents and purposes, they are showing up, and doing their best to be professional while keeping the show moving along.

But the show itself just isn’t very good.

No associative play to speak of. No trust that they can play off of one another and find solutions.

Celta Vigo v FC Barcelona - LaLiga EA Sports

Photo by Jose Manuel Alvarez/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

There’s still enough talent to get past Celta Vigo based on individual ingenuity alone. But they also very well could have dropped points if luck wasn’t on their side.

It turns out, however, it was a good weekend in the end.

Real Madrid dropped two points with a tie against Rayo Vallecano, so the lead in La Liga is down to eight points.

Barcelona, in theory, could still make things interesting if they can keep pace, and put pressure on their rivals.

With rumors that Napoli could sack their manager any day now, Barcelona is in a position to get through to the quarter-finals.

SSC Napoli v Genoa CFC - Serie A TIM

Photo by Gabriele Maricchiolo/NurPhoto via Getty Images

I said it before, and I’ll said it again, as disappointing as this season has been, there is a lot to play for.

And the only thing anyone will remember is how it ends.

I’m not sure Xavi has the solutions tactically. But the players still seem to be behind him.

Can he conjure up some of that magic from the beginning of the season?

Can the fixtures against Napoli be a catalyst to raise their spirits, and make the end of the season exciting?

Barcelona is back where they belong. Let’s hope they make the most of it.

Source link

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Back to top button