Reality bites Barca earlier than Bayern conflict


No sooner has actuality hit than Barcelona has to consider in miracles once more as Xavi Hernandez’s group seeks a victory away at Bayern Munich on Wednesday to take them into the Champions League final 16.

Four weeks after Xavi was appointed, Barca suffered their first defeat underneath their new coach on Saturday and as Real Betis’ Juanmi celebrated within the nook at Camp Nou, it felt like a little bit of hope started to fizzle.

Xavi arrived because the membership’s iconic former midfielder and devoted scholar of Pep Guardiola, an emblem of a return to the values and rules that Barcelona holds expensive and was seen to have misplaced.

Nobody anticipated a metamorphosis, that ‘tiki-taka’ can be rekindled in a single day or that Memphis Depay would morph into Lionel Messi or {that a} porous protection would all of the sudden tighten up.

Few disagreed that Xavi would wish time, and likely loads of it, to show Barcelona even right into a contender once more, not to mention a winner of the sport’s greatest prizes.

But they may have hoped to avoid dropping at home to Real Betis, an upwardly cellular group underneath Manuel Pellegrini with proficient gamers however one that’s extra more likely to end in La Liga’s prime eight than its prime 4.

Just as they may have thought it potential Barcelona would win at home to Benfica final month, a end result that may have rendered Wednesday’s recreation towards Bayern meaningless, with progress to the final 16 safely secured.

Instead, the primary 30 days of Xavi’s tenure have been yet one more train in hammering home actuality and perspective.

There have been glimpses of innovation and alter however the overriding sense is of acquainted flaws being underlined and expectations being additional downgraded.

“In the dressing room I have told them that I am proud, that this is football,” stated Xavi. “It is a shame and I hope it doesn’t affect us because on Wednesday we have to compete like animals to try to get through.”

Barcelona are actually 16 factors behind La Liga’s leaders Real Madrid, and whereas they’ll make that 13 by profitable a recreation in hand, it feels almost pointless now to match.

If re-joining the title race just lately appeared a potential, albeit lofty, goal to achieve, it has shortly turn into almost utterly out of reach.

Catching the highest 4, in the meantime, appeared doable not way back even with only a minor upturn in outcomes, however as an alternative that now appears to be like more and more more likely to be a detailed and tough battle.

In the Champions League, consecutive wins over Dynamo Kiev underneath Ronald Koeman meant there was room for optimism that Barcelona may full the comeback by beating Benfica at home.

Yet the most probably situation now could be that they end third and drop into the Europa League, a contest they might win in the event that they took it severely and one that may additionally provide them an alternate route again into the Champions League subsequent yr.

Psychologically, although, it will be exhausting to abdomen and financially, there are fewer ensures. Only the Europa League winners are likely to earn the identical quantities as these golf equipment that exit within the Champions League final 16.

Bayern would possibly but assist Barcelona’s trigger by fielding a weakened group, with their place on the prime of the group already secured and a recreation towards seventh-placed Mainz to return within the Bundesliga on Saturday.

There can also be nonetheless the opportunity of Benfica slipping up towards Dynamo Kiev, whose solely level within the group got here in a goalless draw at home to Benfica again in September.

What is definite is that little of the blame may be positioned on the ft of Xavi, who inherited a group that has not even begun to switch Messi, with the Argentinian’s objectives, creativity, and aura all nonetheless sorely missed.

Barcelona depends too closely each on veterans, like Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets, and kids, like Gavi, Nico Gonzalez, and Ansu Fati.

The protection is weak and the assault is blunt. They may do with Ousmane Dembele, who may very well be match sufficient to start out towards Bayern, and Fati, who’s unlikely to be prepared.

Xavi wants them each again as quickly as potential to reignite the spark and to carry again the hope that has already begun to fade.

“The objective is to go and win. We have no choice,” stated Xavi on Saturday. “If we get the three points, we will be in the last 16. If not, we will be at the mercy of the other game, but the good thing is that it’s in our hands.”

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