Going back to August 6, 2021, very few were expecting Barcelona to drop a bomb when the former La Liga champions made it official that Messi would be leaving the club on a Bosman, despite reaching an agreement with the club over his new contract.
Messi’s departure from Barcelona triggered a series of calamitous events because him leaving the club that could no longer afford his wages brought the problem at Barca, out in the broad daylight. Barcelona’s financial troubles were already well understood by then but Messi’s departure just showed how bad the situation was at the Camp Nou.
Fast forward December 7th, Barcelona are 16 points from the league leaders in Real Madrid and are closer to relegation (11 points) than they are to the summit of the table. Oh, and also, Ronald Koeman is no longer the man in charge and club legend, Xavi Hernandez is the one who succeeded him (in case you have not been following the developments lately).
Barcelona are struggling and there is no other way to put it. Xavi’s arrival to his boyhood club; but as a manager, this time; has already started to make a difference but with the state, the Blaugrana is in at the moment, it is going to take at least one whole season for the cules to look threatening again. Xavi’s tactics fit in well with Barcelona’s ideology of possession and positional play but the lack of firepower in front of the goal is hurting the former La Liga champions. So much so that Barcelona only managed to register a single shot on target in their first two UEFA Champions League games against Bayern Munich (0-3) and Benfica (0-3).
Two losses in the group stages and with as many wins, Barcelona are now in the must-win zone to progress to the RO16 of the UCL. It is a shame. The Catalans have had their pride knocked down and now have to win against Bayern Munich or hope that Benfica lose against Dynamo Kyiv, if they are to qualify for the next round.
This is what it has come down to. Let us be honest here. After Messi’s departure, we did expect that Barca would struggle but never to this extent.
In many ways, tomorrow’s UCL fixture is the key for the Blaugrana to define the rest of the season.
Barcelona have shown signs of improvement but a collective performance has only come in patches thus far and if Barca is to win against Bayern Munich away from home, for the first time in their history, a collective performance is needed.
Bayern Munich for obvious reasons will start as the favorites against Barcelona, deep down, will know that they are the underdogs. However, if the Barca XI takes the field thinking that they are the underdogs, they will be obliterated by the Bavarians.
One of the many things that Xavi wants to focus on is bringing back the elite winning mentality at Barca. Following the heartbreaking semi-final defeats against Roma and Liverpool in 2017 and 2018 respectively, the group of players at Camp Nou started to lose faith in themselves and that explains why the team has not won the La Liga after their victory in the 2018/19 season.
A victory against Bayern Munich, the team that pulverized in the 2019/20 UCL quarterfinals by a margin of 8-2 and 0-3 at Camp Nou this season, is what is needed to lift the spirits at the Camp Nou.
Last season, Barcelona were very unconvincing at the start and Paris Saint-Germain beat the Blaugrana 4-1 at Camp Nou in the UCL quarterfinals. The team though turned their season around after this defeat and a 1-1 draw at the Parc des Princes showed what Barcelona was capable of. Despite not winning the second leg, Barcelona dominated the Parisians and better finishing would’ve probably seen them complete a second ‘remontada’ against PSG.
This draw not only brought back the confidence in the dressing room but also showed that there is hope. The team clawed its way back into the La Liga title race and even had their fate in their own hands towards the end. Barcelona though faltered at the final hurdle and finished third in the league.
After months of promise…..poof! The confidence vanished.
Barcelona need to beat Bayern Munich if they want to start believing in themselves. Irrespective of the team that Bavarians would field tomorrow, it is going to be a massive challenge for the Blaugrana. To bring back the winning mentality one needs to win and tomorrow is a final for Barcelona.
Barcelona still have time to save their season and they can start by winning tomorrow against the Bundesliga champions. It is not going to be easy but it is certainly not impossible.
Moreover, a victory tomorrow could probably shape the direction of the contract renewal talks with Ousmane Dembele, who will be able to start negotiating with other teams from January 1st, 2022.
Progression to the UCL RO16 will also see the Catalan giants earn as much as €20 million, a sum that is desperately required at Camp Nou.
In short, Barcelona need to win tomorrow for obvious reasons but to also shape the future of the team that is desperately trying to bring in reinforcements. However, Barca needs to do it for themselves and to believe, again.
It is going to be difficult. Barcelona probably are going to face the most challenging match in the club’s history.
But it is not impossible.
A medical student with an avid interest for the game.