Actuality bites once more for Barca forward of rescue mission away at Bayern

MADRID: No sooner has actuality hit than Barcelona need to consider in miracles once more as Xavi Hernandez’s group search a victory away at Bayern Munich on Wednesday to take them into the Champions League final 16.

4 weeks after Xavi was appointed, Barca suffered their first defeat beneath their new coach on Saturday and as Actual Betis’ Juanmi celebrated within the nook at Camp Nou, it felt like a little bit of hope started to fizzle.

Xavi arrived because the membership’s iconic former midfielder and devoted scholar of Pep Guardiola, a logo of a return to the values and rules that Barcelona maintain expensive and had been seen to have misplaced.

Learn extra: Betis inflict Barca’s first defeat beneath Xavi, Atletico surprised by Mallorca

No person anticipated a metamorphosis, that ‘tiki-taka’ could be rekindled in a single day or that Memphis Depay would morph into Lionel Messi or {that a} porous defence would immediately tighten up.

Few disagreed that Xavi would want time, and likely lots of it, to show Barcelona even right into a contender once more, not to mention a winner of the sport’s greatest prizes.

However they could have hoped to avoid dropping at residence to Actual Betis, an upwardly cellular group beneath Manuel Pellegrini with proficient gamers however one that’s extra more likely to end in La Liga’s prime eight than its prime 4.

Simply as they could have thought it doable Barcelona would win at residence to Benfica final month, a outcome that might have rendered Wednesday’s sport in opposition to Bayern meaningless, with progress to the final 16 safely secured.

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As a substitute, the primary 30 days of Xavi’s tenure have been one more train in hammering residence actuality and perspective.

There have been glimpses of innovation and alter however the overriding sense is of acquainted flaws being underlined and expectations being additional downgraded.

“Within the dressing room I’ve advised them that I’m proud, that that is soccer,” stated Xavi. “It’s a disgrace and I hope it doesn’t have an effect on us as a result of on Wednesday we now have to compete like animals to attempt to get by means of.”

Barcelona at the moment are 16 factors behind La Liga’s leaders Actual Madrid, and whereas they will make that 13 by successful a sport in hand, it feels nearly pointless now to check.

If re-joining the title race lately appeared a doable, albeit lofty, goal to attain, it has shortly turn into nearly fully out of attain.

Fleeting optimism

Catching the highest 4, in the meantime, appeared doable not way back even with only a minor upturn in outcomes, however as a substitute that now appears to be like more and more more likely to be an in depth and troublesome struggle.

Within the Champions League, consecutive wins over Dynamo Kiev beneath Ronald Koeman meant there was room for optimism that Barcelona might full the comeback by beating Benfica at residence.

But the probably situation now’s that they end third and drop into the Europa League, a contest they may win in the event that they took it critically and one that might additionally provide them an alternate route again into the Champions League subsequent yr.

Psychologically, although, it might be exhausting to abdomen and financially, there are fewer ensures. Solely the Europa League winners are inclined to earn the identical quantities as these golf equipment that exit within the Champions League final 16.

Bayern would possibly but assist Barcelona’s trigger by fielding a weakened group, with their place on the prime of the group already secured and a sport in opposition to seventh-placed Mainz to come back within the Bundesliga on Saturday.

There may be additionally nonetheless the opportunity of Benfica slipping up in opposition to Dynamo Kiev, whose solely level within the group got here in a goalless draw at residence to Benfica again in September.

What is definite is that little of the blame will be positioned on the ft of Xavi, who inherited a group that has not even begun to switch Messi, with the Argentinian’s targets, creativity and aura all nonetheless sorely missed.

Barcelona rely too closely each on veterans, like Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets, and children, like Gavi, Nico Gonzalez and Ansu Fati.

The defence is weak and the assault is blunt. They might do with Ousmane Dembele, who could possibly be match sufficient to begin in opposition to Bayern, and Fati, who’s unlikely to be prepared.

Xavi wants them each again as quickly as doable to reignite the spark and to convey again the hope that has already begun to fade.

“The target is to go and win. We’ve got no alternative,” stated Xavi on Saturday. “If we get the three factors, we will likely be within the final 16. If not, we will likely be on the mercy of the opposite sport, however the good factor is that it’s in our palms.”

Learn extra: Xavi unveiled as Barcelona coach to followers at Camp Nou

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