The fact that Barcelona is struggling this season shouldn't come as a surprise to many, especially those who followed the club closely during the past few years. It is an open secret that the Catalans have fallen off their normal standard since they last won the Champions League title in 2015 - although domestic success helped to hide their flaws for a while.
Their European campaigns have been ending prematurely courtesy of embarrassing defeats. They threw away a three-goal lead and were sent packing from the UEFA Champions League against Roma in 2018, Liverpool added more salt to their wounds with the 4-0 battering at Anfield last season. This year, even their domestic dominance is slipping away.
Coming back to the current season, all isn't well in the Blaugrana camp. The club aims to return to those days when it dominated Spain and Europe in style but the performances so far suggest otherwise. Barca are enduring a difficult season. They currently sit at the second position on the La Liga table. The goals have been difficult to come by. They won their last three games by a single-goal margin. To make matters worse, their talisman, Lionel Messi isn't having the best of days in front of goal.
Given the relevance of the Argentine to the team, you always expect Barca to suffer whenever he is out of form and that is one of the major reasons behind their struggles this season (he still contributes with assists, though). Messi is having one of his toughest seasons in recent years. The Argentine had fitness issues at the beginning of the term which limited his influence.
His partner-in-crime, Luis Suarez is also struggling with a knee injury. In the absence of the Uruguayan, Barca's number 10 has seen his exploits in front of goal drop significantly. The attacker has bagged just 14 goals in La Liga so far and just two in the Champions League. By this time last year, he already had 24 league goals and six net busters in the UCL.
Barca are in a tight corner. They've lost the top spot to Real Madrid in La Liga. Zinedine Zidane's men have surprised everyone with their resurgence this season. With 53 points from 24 games, Los Blancos mean serious business and they are already giving Quique Setien's troops a run for their money.
We are already in the decisive phase of the campaign. It is now or never for Barca. As we know that their season depends largely on Lionel Messi's level, the Blaugrana need their talisman to start scoring like he used to. The tests ahead aren't going to be funny. To knock this inspired Real Madrid off the summit in La Liga, the Catalans need to be picking up three points in games consistently. Besides, the tie with Napoli is also lurking around the corner.
They must respond brilliantly to overturn their difficult run. The likes of Antoine Griezmann and Ansu Fati (without much pressure on the youngster) need to offer more in front of goal. The defence also needs to step up. They've conceded the most goals among the top 5 teams in La Liga so far. Setien's men must up their game immediately, otherwise, another poor conclusion to the campaign looms.Published 19 Feb 2020, 19:57 IST