Barcelona’s difficult start to their La Liga campaign without Lionel Messi continued on Thursday as Ronald Koeman’s side were held to an underwhelming draw at Cadiz
“The next game is the next crisis.” This was the old adage that will be familiar to older generations of Barcelona fans, who were accustomed to their club’s continued struggles and underperformances.
Between 1960 and 1985, the club won just one league title and went six years without a title success between 1999 and 2005 – when they tipped outside Spain’s top five.
Lionel Messi’s era changed all that, with the club winning eight league titles in 11 years and, for the first time, establishing themselves as Europe’s best side over multiple years.
Yet that feeling of underperformance, underachievement and off-field chaos has now taken hold once again with each match now feeling like a fresh crisis.
Thursday’s goalless draw at Cadiz followed Monday’s draw at home to winless Granada which came off the back of a three-goal home loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
Barca are in “freefall” according to Marca, as Diario AS splashed “Agony” over their front page with a picture of a dejected Ronald Koeman, with Diario Sport writing that a “sad” Barcelona were again “frustrated”.
This is a team who seem unable to win, unable to score and unable to find a new identity following the exit of Messi and a mini injury crisis of their own.
This scale back in expectations was outlined by boss Ronald Koeman earlier this week, as he said: “To finish high in the league table would be a success. In the Champions League, no miracles can be expected.”
A defiant Gerard Pique faced the media after Thursday night’s match to defy that message and implicitly stated that Koeman was wrong – they could compete and that was their responsibility.
SIPA USA/PA Images)
Pique told Spanish TV: “We will end up competing. I am not wearing the Barça shirt to finish second or third. I am here to compete for the titles.
“I am very convinced, despite the start, that we will be competing. The team is up for it, with lots of enthusiasm. Sometimes we have to face these moments.
“We feel that the fans are with us. The situation is complicated for everyone.”
The central defender added: “This club has spent many years on the crest of a wave and maybe we’re not used to this.
“These are turbulent years, change of president, change of coaches.
“We have to do all we can to provide stability. Let’s not look for sides, let’s all pull in the same direction. The players are focused on playing and winning.”
Barca finished the game in Cadiz with 10 men as Frenkie de Jong was sent-off but there was a red card for Koeman too, which almost felt symbolic.
The Dutchman fumed after the game: “They send you off for nothing in this country.
“Everyone saw there were two balls on the pitch except for the referee.
“That speaks for itself. I told the fourth official that there were two balls on the pitch, but they send you off for nothing here.”
That red card means Koeman will not be on the bench against Levante through suspension – but the question is now focused on how many more games he will occupy the Barca dugout.
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