The Champions continued their cursed run at the Anoeta and were dominated by Real Sociedad who held them to a 1-1 draw
Some would say it was an unfair result, given that the hosts had a goal disallowed in the 76th minute that could have potentially been the match-winning goal. It was an extremely uncharacteristic display and the worst performance by a Barcelona team in recent memory. Here are 5 talking points regarding the game and Barcelona’s form.
The Other Suarez
Suarez was arguably the only positive from this performance. But not Luis, this time it was Denis. The 22-year-old attacking midfielder was in good form after his introduction in place of Ivan Rakitic in the second half and Barcelona began to look more threatening, and there was also a fluidity in their attack that was missing in the first half.
Post the end of the match, many wondered why Luis Enrique chose to go with Andre Gomes instead of the young Spaniard from the very beginning. Also, while making the substitution, it should have been the Portuguese who came off in place of Suarez as Rakitic wasn’t having too bad a game.
It is perhaps the price of the player that forces Enrique to give him chance after chance, but it was clear that had Suarez been started, the game would have probably gone in Barcelona’s favour.
Iniesta To Return
The Captain’s absence has been severely felt in the middle of the park. The effect of Xavi’s departure has been somewhat curbed by Ivan Rakitic, but he too is not quite as the pass-master the Spaniard was in his prime.
Iniesta’s injury has also given Luis Enrique a selection headache as he has to choose between the likes of Suarez, Gomes, Rafinha and Arda Turan for that position. All of them are capable of playing there, but nowhere near in the same manner as Iniesta.
However, he is likely to return for the Clasico and his involvement in the team would raise Barcelona’s chances against a rampant Real Madrid side considerably. Both Rakitic and Busquets will also welcome him back among them, and in turn, their performances will also be boosted by the presence of the little magician.
The Spaniard is arguably the most underrated player in the Barcelona squad, and has been so since the Pep Guardiola era. But for all of his importance to the squad, this has been his biggest and perhaps his lengthiest slump in form since establishing himself in the team.
The fact that he doesn’t have Iniesta and Xavi alongside him doesn’t help his cause either. Ivan Rakitic’s defensive responsibilities have increased due to the inexperience of Sergi Roberto on the right flank and that makes things harder for the World Cup winner and Andres Iniesta’s absence, doesn’t help his cause.
Busquets’ role is an integral one in the Barcelona squad, and there are few players on the planet who can do what he does, so it is clear that Busquets’ form is key to Barcelona’s fortunes.
His technical ability and range of passing is something that helps bring the best out of the rest of Barcelona’s midfield and attack so Enrique and the fans will hope that the 28-year-old finds his form when they welcome Real Madrid next week.
The Road Ahead
After 13 La Liga games, Barcelona have managed 8 wins, 3 draws and 2 losses. They sit 6 points behind Real Madrid and they are only above third placed Sevilla on goal difference. This has been their worst start to a La Liga campaign since 2007, and things are looking dire at the Nou Camp.
This season has been marred by injury and players like Messi and Neymar have had to deal with court proceedings when they were not on the pitch. Both Luis Enrique and Gerard Pique have voiced their opinion about how difficult it would be to win La Liga should they keep performing like this.
Barcelona were getting hammered at the Anoeta and they were lucky to come out of there with a point to their name. After the upcoming El Clasico, they face a trip to Osasuna later welcome Espanyol for a Catalonia derby.
In previous seasons those would have been viewed as a sure 6 points for the Champions, but with the current slump they are in, it will be interesting to see how Luis Enrique manages to get his side to finish the year.
Real Madrid Are Lurking
Zidane and his men will be more than happy to face a Barcelona side in this kind of form. Los Blancos are now back to their very best form after suffering a slight slump in fortunes during in September.
Cristiano Ronaldo is back to his ultimate best and has been warming up for this game with a hat-trick against rivals Atletico Madrid and a brace against Sporting Gijon last week.
His 5 goals in the last two league games have been just some of the 12 he’s netted this season in 15 appearances in all competitions and he’ll be eager to extend this run of form against the Blaugrana in the upcoming El Clasico.
Real Madrid currently sit atop the La Liga table, 6 points clear of second placed Barcelona. They remain unbeaten this season, and even though they would remain atop the standings should they lose next week, a 9 point lead would see them take a large leap toward the title.
However, Luis Enrique has assured fans that there will be a different Barcelona that will welcome the European Champions to the Nou Camp next week, and Zidane will be wary of not letting his side take Barcelona’s recent slump in form for granted.