Barcelona is tiptoeing along the precipice of a legitimate crisis. This is not news. The club’s issues, from over-reliance on Lionel Messi to the lack of a promise in the younger ranks to the sputtering results that stem from it all, have been covered plenty in this space.
It’s just nobody’s been there to truly punish Barca for it yet. Not in La Liga, where Real Madrid is caught in its own whirlpool of drama and Atletico Madrid is struggling to score, and not in Tuesday’s 0-0 Champions League snoozefest against Slavia Prague.
Messi nearly won it late with a touch on a clever ball from budding 17-year-old Ansu Fati (via Bleacher Report):
If the unimaginative hosts had played either of their other Group F mates, Borussia Dortmund and Inter Milan, a loss surely would have been in the cards. But Barcelona is still atop the group with two to play, and will remain there until at least the next matchday on Nov. 27.
There’s a chance Messi balls out and bails out the Catalans, thus securing advancement to the knockout stage with ease. What if he doesn’t? Luis Suarez’s health has been a concern. There have been on-field chemistry issues between Messi and big summer signing Antoine Griezmann. Midfield general of the future Frenkie de Jong has been a letdown. Where do the answers come from? Does Ernesto Valverde even have them?
We still don’t know, and Barcelona still hasn’t really had to come up with them. Again, for all their troubles, they’re joint-top of the league and in position to advance in Europe.
That’s more by virtue of elsewhere abdication, though, and not anything resembling the incredible Barcelona sides that have dominated the past decade-plus.
So we limp on, with the club that made many fans love soccer in the first place seemingly conspiring to drain that love dry. Consequences are coming. And Barcelona better fix things before it has to face them.
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