The Catalans edged out struggling Leganes in a laboured victory at Camp Nou, and it all seems to be fizzling out for this Blaugrana side.
What will the optimists say now? Many fans came out with their chests pumping in the light of Barcelona’s brutal 4-0 defeat at Paris Saint-German and claimed their team would turn it around with a famous victory in the return leg. But not like this they won’t.
Barca were keen to bounce back after that damaging defeat at the Parc des Princes and went ahead against Leganes within four minutes through Lionel Messi. But the promoted side deservedly equalised in the second half and, in the end, the Blaugrana only prevailed thanks to a late penalty from their Argentine attacker.
Messi did not even celebrate. Just like on Tueday night, Barca were awful again and he knew it. Up against one of the weakest teams in La Liga at home, the Catalans had needed a spot-kick to prevail. So how can they possibly hope to turn it around versus PSG?
On the bench, Gerard Pique’s expression told another story. This was painful to watch from a Barca point of view and, again, the team’s once-majestic midfield was a pale shadow of what it used to be.
Following the loss Tuesday, the Camp Nou registered its lowest crowd of the season as 63,368 fans came along to watch the match. And before kick-off, the animation stand sang Luis Enrique’s name in an attempt to lighten the mood. But it was met by a chorus of boos.
There is the feeling that this is coming to an end. Luis Enrique enjoyed spectacular success in his opening season as he led the Catalan club to a treble of Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League titles, followed by a domestic double last term. But the current campaign is proving much more complicated.
Barca are only one point behind fierce rivals Real Madrid in La Liga, though they have played two more games than Los Blancos, and their Champions League hopes hang on an extremely slender thread after the 4-0 loss at PSG. A comeback would be something historic and, quite honestly, this team do not look capable of producing such a performance right now.
Sergio Busquets was suspended and Andres Iniesta left on the bench for this one until the closing stages. And in their place, Ivan Rakitic, Andre Gomes and Rafinha were extremely ineffective against a Leganes side that started the day just two points above the drop zone and were without a win since November.
As in the game against PSG, only goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen and forward Neymar really looked in the mood, along with goalscorer Messi, while Leganes’ leveller came from yet another Sergi Roberto error. The midfielder started the season so well at right-back, but he is desperately short on confidence right now and Barca have no replacement after the injury to Aleix Vidal.
La Liga is not over yet, especially as Madrid now face tough trips to Valencia and Villarreal in the coming week, but Barca will need to play much better than this if they are to have any hope of catching Zinedine Zidane’s side.
As for the Champions League, that looks lost as well. And while there is always a chance in football, the evidence Sunday suggests the Catalans have little hope of producing a comeback in the second leg.
So it is going to be a long season ahead now for the Blaugrana until they meet Alaves in the Copa del Rey final on May 27. Booed by the fans at Camp Nou and seemingly unable to find a solution for his struggling side, this looks like the beginning of the end for Luis Enrique’s Barcelona.
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