The Catalan giants did little to ease the pressure on manager Ernesto Valverde after being held to a goalless draw by Slavia Prague in another below-par appearance at Camp Nou.
Barcelona created a number of chances to break the deadlock but Lionel Messi saw numerous opportunities thwarted by the inspired Slavia goalkeeper Ondrej Kolar. The Camp Nou outfit fired six shots on target in a game which became Lionel Messi’s first Champions League group stage game since 2012 without a goal or an assist.
Such an underachievement is another red flag at Camp Nou and the finger-pointing game has already started.
Are Barca in Crisis?
A look at the stats and numbers would not suggest Barcelona actually are in a crisis.
Sitting top of both La Liga and Champions League group F after 12 and three rounds of respective competitions, Barcelona have plenty to worry about, though. Moreover, three league defeats on the road in 2019/20 are pretty indicative. The way these defeats came to be – and especially the last one at Levante – is particularly worrying.
The Blaugrana seemed to have everything under control but suffered a seven-minute stint of chaos which saw them concede three goals and stumble to a 3-1 defeat. Supporters understandably expected their team to get back to winning ways on Tuesday. Therefore, the whistles following a bleak display against the Czech side speak volumes, however.
“It’s good for people to demand more. Today it has not been one of our best games. Obviously, we came from losing (on Saturday) and that has unbalanced us. It has not been a perfect day like other games at home. That generates frustration for not winning and because the match has not been good.”, Ernesto Valverde was quoted by Marca.
Who’s to Blame?
Ernesto Valverde is well aware of the pressure he’s under.
Barcelona are a huge club where losing is simply unacceptable and where winning is often not enough. They are the club where the magic happens, a side renowned for their fighting spirit, free-flowing brand of football and beauty in motion.
With their charismatic style seemingly fading, Ernesto Valverde is obviously the man to take the blame. The manager is failing to make his mercurial summer signings – Antoine Griezmann and Frenkie De Jong – work and, in his third season at the helm, the Spanish tactician seems to be running out of time.
Level on points with second-placed Real Madrid and Real Sociedad in the third spot, Barcelona are still the early odds-on favourites to lift the Spanish title. With struggling Celta Vigo coming to town for the weekend, the Catalans are given plenty of backing at La Liga betting tips to get three points.
A win, however, might not be enough for Valverde to save his job.
Valverde Replacement(s) Identified
With pressure mounting, the rumours are rising.
Valverde’s continuous failures to deliver the expected level of performance and get the results deemed worthy of the club’s stature seem to have forced the club board to look for potential replacements.
The Barcelona hierarchy has already got several options on the table.
Ajax coach Ten Hag has been on the Barcelona radar for quite some time. His stock went through a stellar rise following a successful stint in the Netherlands and the eye-catching football he’s brought forth with his young Ajax side.
Mauricio Pochettino is another option Barcelona chiefs are believed to be thinking about. The Tottenham boss is growing frustrated in London and could be on the move if a right offer comes by. A lack of trophies in his CV is working against him, however.
Lastly, a popular Barcelona figure has also been thrown into the mix – much to the fans’ delight. One of Barcelona’s icons, Xavi, who played more 750 games for the Catalan club is being linked with a sensational return to Camp Nou.
The former Spanish international only retired at the end of the season.
He is lacking managerial experience but with the Barcelona DNA running through his system, Xavi is backed to succeed. He possesses a great understanding of football and has been backed to sit in the Barcelona dugout by none other than Pep Guardiola, who claims “Xavi was already manager while he played”.
Could the time be right for Xavi’s great return?