Barcelona’s 5-2 defeat of Real Betis at Camp Nou on Saturday afternoon gave their supporters glimpses of hope in a calendar year of disappointment, but coach Ronald Koeman still has a long road to travel to restore the Catalan club to their former glories.
This was the tone of Luis F. Rojo’s piece in Marca following the game. He touched upon the number of problems that came out of the afternoon – Ansu Fati, Barça’s most exciting wonderkid in years, tore his meniscus in a challenge just before half-time from Aïssa Mandi and could face up to five months out.
Antoine Griezmann scored early in the second half thanks to a moment of genius from Lionel Messi, but missed a penalty in the first half and squandered a number of gilt-edged chances. Ousmane Dembélé also found the net with a golazo early doors, but Rojo identified his lax work-rate as a key factor in exposing Sergi Roberto and Barça’s right side.
This was coupled with a weakness at centre-back, with Clement Lenglet a shadow of the player who’s performed so well in recent seasons – he gave away a penalty against Real Madrid and was clearly at fault for Betis’ first goal on Saturday.
Two positives from the game, however, have to include Messi’s performance and the debut goal of the 17 year-old Pedri. Messi was sublime after he came on at half-time, “assisting” Griezmann with an ingenious dummy before scoring a brace. Pedri became just the fourth player under-18 to score for Barça in LaLiga.
Barça saw 59.5% of possession, maintaining a passing completion rate of 89% and peppering Claudio Bravo’s goal with ten shots on target. Despite the positives, however, the Catalans remain in eighth position.
Next up for them following the international break is Atlético Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano. Diego Simeone’s side are riding high in LaLiga and look perhaps the best-placed of the big three to mount a title challenge – their clash will be a great test of both’s ambitions.
Featured image courtesy of Forbes.