Forlorn Barcelona adapts to the new norm of European inferiority

BARCELONA: The most striking thing about Barcelona’s 3-0 loss to Bayern Munich on Tuesday was how inevitable it was and how easily players and coach Ronald Koeman (Photo) accepted their drastic drop in status from European giants to outsiders.

Less than a year ago, the Catalans were undefeated at home in 38 Champions League games, but they have now lost their last three European games at Camp Nou, losing 3-0 to Juventus and 4-1 against Paris St Germain ahead of Tuesday’s debacle. .

The score might not have been as savage as the 8-2 loss to Bayern in the 2019-20 quarter-finals, but the performance was even more desperate, with Koeman’s side ending the game without a shot on target. .

While some fans booed the performance, the overriding sensation was apathy, with supporters applauding the rare occasion their team managed to hold onto possession for a while.

The reaction of the players was also revealing.

Veteran defender Gerard Pique responded to the 8-2 beating by saying the club needed to be transformed from top to bottom, but on Tuesday he appeared to have accepted the new normal, saying: “It is what it is and we are what we are. . “

Coach Koeman agreed with Pique, saying he had no choice but to field a 3-5-2 defensive formation due to the team’s serious injury issues, which meant that left-back Jordi Alba had played despite his illness the night before and that only two forwards were available, leaving the coach to choose Sergi Roberto at the right-back.

Barca finished the game with four teenagers on the pitch and the promise of youth was the only green shoot of a dark evening, with Koeman insisting the squad will be better in the next few years when Gavi and Alex Balde are in. more experienced.

The coach also said the team’s fortunes would improve when their injury problems abated, but there is little guarantee of a quick fix: Ousmane Dembele has had a career littered with injuries while Ansu Fati will return from two knee surgeries after missing last year.

New signing Sergio Aguero has also been haunted by injuries lately and at 33, he’s not quite the type of player to face the physical differences that were evident as Bayern repeatedly beat their Barca counterparts. for rhythm and power.

The Catalans have the chance to share Group E with weaker Dynamo Kyiv and Benfica sides, meaning they should qualify for the last 16 as finalists.

Reaching the knockout stage, however, might just delay another humiliating night once they meet a superior team.

Pique admitted his team were no longer among the favorites to win a competition they’ve won three times in the past decade and the reaction from local media reflected his honest assessment.

“Poor Barca,” Spanish newspaper Marca said, while Catalan daily Sport portrayed Barca players looking sadly at Camp Nou under the headline: “The Sad Reality”. – Reuters

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