Welcome back to the Champions League.
For Barca, it was pretty simple. Win and you’ll at least maintain a 3 point lead over Porto in the group. Draw and it’s at least a 1 point. Lose and well, you’ll be creating problems that don’t need to exist.
Let’s see how Barca did.
The first half was….a shocker.
Barca couldn’t do anything with the possession they expectedly received.
There were far too many instances of slow ball circulation, thus allowing Shakhtar to hold their defensive shape and force Barca to play close range patty cake with the ball.
There was also close to zero influential movement off the ball. This has been a problem for Barca ever since Xavi’s first half season in charge ended. There’s not a lot of fluent understanding of positional play in the squad, which leads to a lot of standing around and not knowing where to run, who to pass to, or when to run.
All that combined to create one of Barca’s worst halves of the season, which is saying something considering Sunday night’s game might’ve had their worst half of the season. Honestly, it was like watching paint dry out there, no semblance of positivity at all.
Just a bunch of bodies in white shirts running around with no clear objective on the mind.
And that was just in the attacking phase.
Defensively, there wasn’t a lot of optimism there either, because Shakhtar simply found ways to punish Barca on the counter. There were a few instances in the first half where Ter Stegen had to make a few opportune saves, all off them coming during times in which Barca desperately needed them.
However, Ter Stegen couldn’t save all of the shots he was facing, as Barca gave up a goal before the halftime whistle. Danylo Sikan outfought Andreas Christensen for a looping header that flew past the outstretched arms of Ter Stegen, giving Shakhtar a deserved 1-0 lead.
Nothing went right for Barca in the first half. Well maybe the sound of the halftime whistle, a sound that signaled the end of Barca’s poor opening half that saw them dig a hole for themselves.
Only the second half remained, but with the way Barca had been playing, was there any reason for optimism?
The answer is no.
Barca’s second half was only marginally better than their first, the only differences were better paced ball circulation and more urgency in the attacking phase. Or in other words, normal reactions from a big club that needs answers quickly.
I could go on and on analyzing the second half, but the same problems persisted in the second half. There was not a lot of creativity from Barca, nor were there any clear cut scoring chances.
All of which led to — once again — a nonexistent attacking threat that left Barca scrambling for answers. Usually Barca found a goal to scrape by and escape the full consequence of their actions, but this time that last minute goal never arrived.
Instead, Barca lost 1-0, leaving themselves with a lot of questions but not a lot of answers at the same time.
This was probably the worst match Barca has played under Xavi.
A lifeless performance against a team that Barca should’ve handled, yeah that’ll do it. Barca has a lot and I mean a lot of work to do. Their attacking structure looks broken, they’re giving up far too many chances defensively, it’s basically a mess right now.
And it’ll be up to Xavi to fix it all.
Barca’s next match
Barca’s next match will be on Sunday against Deportivo Alaves.
See you all then!