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Three talking points ahead of Unionistas de Salamanca vs Barcelona | Copa del Rey

Barcelona began their campaign in the Copa del Rey earlier this month with a tricky clash against UD Barbastro. They managed to sail past the inferior-ranked opposition and make it to the next round where they will take on Unionistas de Salamanca away from home.

Their opponents on the night belong to the Spanish third division and are one of the two lower-tier opposition left in the competition. Yet, one cannot deny that their position is deserved, especially after they knocked out Villarreal in the last round.

It will not be an easy clash for Barcelona, who themselves are recovering from a painful defeat to Real Madrid. Yet, such is the world of football that time does not extend itself by the virtue of sympathy.

Barça Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Unionistas vs Barcelona.

The hollow feeling

There are few feelings in the world worse than a defeat in a game of football. A defeat in El Clasico is undoubtedly the worst of them all.

Barcelona’s 4-1 thrashing in Saudi Arabia at the hands of Real Madrid thus leaves the team in shambles. It does not take a soothsayer to get an insider’s image of the defeated dressing room, especially after a public humbling on the biggest of stages.

Xavi’s men have not been known to be the most mentally resilient of sides in recent times. The dressing room has often suffered from a lack of confidence despite the quality of the squad, with big defeats serving as an impetus to build negative momentum.

It does not get much worse than losing to one’s arch-rivals by a drastic scoreline in the final of a competition on that front. Barcelona were nowhere close to as good as they should have been in their last clash, and many rightly expect it to play a role in Thursday’s result.

A large part of the result in the Copa del Rey clash will depend on which version of Barcelona steps onto the field on the night.

If the defeat fuels the dressing room to prove their worth on the field, they could tear through Unionistas away from home. Yet, there is an equal chance that a defeated team walks onto the field and dishes out yet another 90 minutes of pain.

Pressure on the manager

Under pressure.(Photo by GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP via Getty Images)

It did not take long after Barcelona’s 4-1 defeat to Real Madrid for the administration to reiterate the faith in Xavi’s project. Joan Laporta has complete trust in the Spanish tactician and is still far from pulling the trigger on his sacking.

Earlier this week, it was reported that there were three scenarios wherein Xavi would face the axe early this season. One of them relates to the Copa del Rey and throws his future into an immediate cloud of doubt.

While the administration does have faith in Xavi, they will no longer tolerate premature exits in competitions come what may. An early exit in the Copa del Rey, especially a defeat tomorrow, could well seal Xavi’s fate and write his sacking in stone.

The pressure, thus, is equally on the manager as it is on the players ahead of the clash against Unionistas. A large part of the blame for the Clasico defeat falls on Xavi’s tactics, and he must prove once again that he possesses the acumen to lead Barcelona into the new era.

Else, it would mark the end of his journey at a rather unfortunate juncture.

Time for the defence to tighten up

The biggest talking point after Barcelona’s loss at the weekend was around the team’s defence which was one of Europe’s best not so long ago.

Despite not seeing any major change in personnel one year later, however, the combination of Ronald Araujo, Jules Kounde, Andreas Christensen, and Alejandro Balde has shown many cracks this term with a desolate statistical record.

Against Real Madrid, the defence single-handedly was responsible for all four goals. A combination of poor offside traps, an excessively high defensive line, poor judgement and unnecessary aggression caused Barcelona’s downfall and left Araujo suspended.

Xavi will not be able to count on the Uruguayan star tomorrow after his suspension and will thus have to find a stop-gap solution to cover the void. After all, Joao Cancelo is unavailable through injury as well.

The business end of the season is ahead, and Barcelona’s defenders must smell the coffee and tighten things up for the crucial phase. If the defeat to Real Madrid did not cause an awakening, no result will, and it will thus be interesting to see how the Catalan backline fares tomorrow.

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