The starting XI showed that Xavi’s thoughts were focused on Wednesday’s game, with Lenglet and Dest starting along with Phil Coutinho. I was skeptical, but hoped for the best regardless. All eggs in the Bavarian basket.
Coutinho seems to be in the mood today. Only 7 minutes in but he’d been actively trying to disrupt Betis. Coutinho got the first chance of the game but took a tame shot at the keeper.
20 minutes gone, and there were no clear chances at goal yet. The game pace had been sucked out by a phantom maybe. Barça have kept the game under control, even though their best players are not on the pitch, that should be applauded at least.
Gavi took a knock to the head. He had to be taken off. Replaced by Riqui Puig. We were reminded with the aid of replays that Coutinho’s chance is the best of the game thus far. Riqui’s entry marked an increase in the tempo of the Barça attack.
That tempo has dropped off. I think I might have jinxed it.
That brings an end to the first half.
The second half starts in drab fashion, and the first 10 minutes fly by, then Ousmane Dembele and Frenkie De Jong are introduced. Then the game gets fizzy and Barça are more aggressive in attack. The team still needs a striker. Memphis as 9 just isn’t it.
Betis get a counter attack, and use it clinically. We’re a goal down.
And then we struggled to get the goal that we so desperately needed. The first loss under Xavi, and it was an uninspiring one, excuses can be made but I believe he should have played with the strongest available team from the offing and then taken them off after they had done their job. I do admire his courage to play this team against Betis, with Bayern on the horizon, that sort of belief bodes well for the long run.