The matches Barcelona have left until their second leg in the Champions Leg comes up aren’t necessarily about winning and advancing, but more as ways to find how to gain the confidence back on offense against an excellent defense and stop conceding goals. Lionel Messi, hopefully playing next to David Villa, can help take care of one of the two.
It’s weird how David Villa fell to be third or fourth in the rotation of wingers and forwards Barcelona have, despite probably being the only one with the ability to play as a winger and change his position to provide a target in the middle of the box. Barcelona didn’t struggle with possession or creating chances in the 2-1 win against Sevilla, but it was Villa’s touch and presence, not to mention goal, that brought them back into the match, before Lionel Messi finished things off.
Despite scoring in 15 consecutive La Liga matches, Messi showed he’s human, fragile, beatable and stoppable against Milan. Gaining back that intimidation factor, pretty much lost during 90 minutes of football at the San Siro, doesn’t begin with a win against Sevilla, but obtaining the pieces for that goal began there. The results? Unsatisfactory so far, because a 2-1 win in the league means nothing at this point, but the defensive mistakes by Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano will cost Barcelona in the very near future.
The next four games – Real Madrid at home in the Copa Del Rey, Real Madrid away in the league, Deportivo at home in the league and AC Milan at home in the Champions League. While it’s pretty much impossible to see Barcelona losing their grip on the league at the moment, with only 13 matches left to play, the Copa Del Rey clash against Real Madrid, in the short term, means so much more. Not just advancing in the Cup, but ruining the season, almost completely, for Real Madrid and Jose Mourinho.
But for that to happen, some things must happen as well – Alexis is out. Nothing sharp, nothing clever, nothing good. Something went wrong over the last six-seven months with the Chilean forward, who looked much more precise and focused last season, whether playing as a winger or an actual striker.
David Villa has been in and out of the lineup this season, sometimes not even getting a minute to play off the bench, but he’s certainly more equipped to handle any kind of pressure at the moment, although Barcelona will probably opt for Pedro to start in the next match, and the question will be if Barcelona stick to the four central midfielders system or go back to a more traditional 4-3-3, with Pedro and Villa on the wings of Lionel Messi.
The other issue is the defense, and with all three central defenders, be it Gerard Pique, Javier Mascherano and Carles Puyol (yes, even him), making bad decisions in every match – not staying to ground, bad positioning and rushing out choices and the need to cover holes left by Dani Alves (going through his worst season with Barcelona) and whoever plays on the left, probably Jordi Alba.
For now, Alex Song isn’t the answer – not as a DM, and certainly not as a centre back. Sergio Busquets will have to play a much more retreated and held-back role, while Xavi and Iniesta take care of possession and offense on their own, if Barcelona are to stop conceding goals at an alarming rate (11 consecutive matches), and allow Lionel Messi and those with him up front more cushion and less pressure.