It has taken just two matches for Barcelona to drop their first points under Xavi Hernandez. The former midfielder made a winning start to life at the Camp Nou when his side defeated Espanyol last Saturday.
However, the new manager bounce was fizzled out on Tuesday by Benfica. The Portuguese side are in contention with Barcelona for the right to finish in second place in Group E of the UEFA Champions League.
With Bayern Munich already sealing top spot, the two teams were involved in a sort of decider for the runner-up slot. Barcelona, though, could not make their home advantage count and, therefore, had to settle for a goalless draw.
The result means Xavi’s side is still two points above Benfica, but they’ll have to win their last group game against Bayern in order to qualify for the knockout round.
Barcelona struggle against Benfica
In some ways, one can say that the 0-0 stalemate wasn’t so much of a bad result. This is because Benfica had beaten the Blaugrana 3-0 in the reverse.
However, knowing that a win would’ve secured qualification to the last 16 of the Champions League, this feels more like a chance missed for Barcelona.
The Spanish giants have had a huge boost since Xavi’s arrival and the way they go into games has clearly changed. However, their lack of cutting edge remains a problem.
On Tuesday, Barcelona struggled to create clear-cut chances and also failed to bury the few that came their way. And despite dominating possession, their energy levels dropped after the hour mark.
It’s early days yet, but these are games that the Blaugrana should be winning. As it stands, they need to massively improve to be able to compete with other elite teams in Europe.
Early reality check for Xavi
Xavi has been hailed as the messiah following his arrival at the Camp Nou, however, the former midfielder will not have things easy.
The 1-0 win over Espanyol wasn’t a flawless performance and the team’s goalless draw with Benfica was also a timely reality check of the task at hand.
"What makes me most optimistic is seeing the team playing in this way," Xavi said in the aftermath of the game, as quoted by ESPN.
"Playing like this we can compete with anyone. Seeing what I've seen [against Benfica], we can go to Munich and win. The positive news is we still depend on ourselves."
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Xavi was clearly very political with his utterances, but the truth is that Barcelona are nowhere near Bayern’s level at the moment. And if they play like this at the Allianz Arena, they might get smashed again.