LaLiga 2019/20: Three things we learnt from Barcelona's shock defeat vs Levante
Barcelona travelled to Levante for a La Liga game on Saturday, riding high on a seven-match winning streak. Lionel Messi was fully fit and firing. With everyone fit in the squad except Samuel Umtiti, the Catalans were coming slowly back to their usual self. The Cules expected rotation from Ernesto Valverde as Barca had to play three matches in seven days.
Valverde started the usual all-star front three of Messi, Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann. Messi converted from a penalty after a foul on Nelson Semedo inside the box. Suarez soon suffered a knock and was taken out during the 40th-minute mark. The Blaugranas went into the break with a lead but in a rather unconvincing fashion.
Levante showed intent right from the word go in the second period as they deservedly got their equaliser in the 61st minute. Within seven minutes, they were up 3-1, and the match turned upside down. Barcelona barely got a decent chance except for the disallowed Messi goal. The game finished 3-1 in favour of the hosts in what was another memorable one for the home side after the 5-4 victory two seasons ago.
Here are three things we learnt from the match:
#1. Barcelona's defensive frailties continue
Conceding three goals in seven minutes is dreadful for any top team's defence. The Catalans have had their worst start to a season defensively, allowing 14 goals in just eleven matches. Today, the first two goals were defensive errors from Gerard Pique. The first one was a weak clearance from the Spaniard as Levante scored just after getting back possession. The second one was even worse as he was slow to pick up the turn of Borja Mayoral who scored from range.
The defence is slow and fragile. Maintaining a high line with two slow centre-backs is very risky, and Barca paid massively for that. Levante had only three shots on target, converting all three. The defence was disorganised with spaces for Levante players to run inside. Pique, who is supposed to be the leader at the back, led with mistakes. With only Todibo on the bench, the champions don't have any other proper replacements either. Signing a centre-back during the January window seems imminent.
#2. Ernesto Valverde's team selections are questionable
Despite signing Antoine Griezmann during the summer, Suarez plays almost every game for the full 90 minutes but isn't as clinical as before.However Messi and Suarez don't track back often enough when not in possession. So, the team defends with only nine men without the ball and on Saturday Griezmann contributed more to defence than attack.
When Junior Firpo was fit and ready to play, the coach decided to play Nelson Semedo out of position in an already disarrayed backline. The confidence of the youngster will come down if this is repeated. Moussa Wague hasn't featured in a single game after getting promoted to the first team this season. With no minutes under his belt, playing in the B team would have kept him at least match-fit. Alena doesn't make matchday squads and is struggling to become a part of the manager's plans.
With plenty of talent in the roster and no rotation used to avail of them, Valverde needs to rethink his rotation policies.
#3. Barcelona's away miseries still exist
The Catalans have been poor away from the Camp Nou this season and Cules were worried about tough away fixtures in the UCL. But, wins against Getafe and Eibar in the League rekindled their hopes. But it lasted a very short while and Barca were lucky to get away with a win against Slavia Prague in Europe. Today, Barcelona were not at their best and were complacent in both attack and defence. They have conceded nine away goals this season and scored only ten.
They still don't seem to have recovered from their Anfield nightmare and away matches seem to affect their psyche If these away performances continue, Barcelona will find themselves in a very tough situation in UCL knockouts. The team seniors and the support staff must talk to each other, analyse what happens in away games and find a solution as soon as possible.Published 03 Nov 2019, 01:14 IST