5 things Valverde needs to sort out before Barca's next match
The International break could not have come at a better time for Ernesto Valverde. The Barcelona manager will be under pressure to turn around his team's performance after their horror show this weekend against Real Betis at Camp Nou. The 3-4 defeat ended the Blaugrana's unbeaten streak of 42 games at the Camp Nou. It also meant that their lead at the top of the table is now cut to just 1 point after Sevilla, Athletico Madrid and Alaves won their respective matches. Real Madrid also won their match to cut the gap to four points.
It was a worrying performance from Valverde's men on Sunday night. After smashing 5 against Real Madrid, Barca escaped with a win last weekend against Rayo Vallecano. The win against their eternal rivals could have brought complacency into the Barca ranks. Or it could simply be a case of tiredness creeping in their performance due to their midweek Champions League match against Inter Milan.
Whatever the reason, Valverde will need to go back to the drawing board to figure out the problem. Here are five things he may need to look into:
#1 Defensive Issues
Real Betis cut through Barca's defense like butter being cut by a knife. Other than the third goal which was caused by an uncharacteristic error from ter Stegen, all the other goals exposed Barcelona's defensive frailty. Junior Firpo and former Barca player Christian Tello ran rampant in the wide areas and constantly put pressure on Sergi Roberto and Jordi Alba. Barca was constantly hit on the break and the scoreline could have been even more had Real Betis been more clinical.
Barca's defense has come under question in this season with the Blaugrana leaking goals against smaller teams. The defeat against Real Betis is Barca's second of the season after a defeat against Leganes. Samuel Umtiti absence could be a contributing factor in Barca's defensive issues, but his replacement Clement Lenglet has so far not done much wrong to deserve the axe. But the midweek engagement against Inter Milan could have caused the defense to tire a bit. The international break will be a break for players like Pique and Lenglet. With Samuel Umtiti fit again, Valverde has the option to rest either of the before mentioned players.
But with Athletico Madrid next, it remains to be seen whether Valverde will risk bringing in Umtiti or keep the center back pair of Pique and Lenglet. It also remains to be seen if Valverde picks Nelson Semedo for Sergi Roberto. While the Spaniard is the better player going forward, the Portuguese is the better defender. Valverde may lean towards Semedo for added stability in the backline.