Barcelona’s Europa League exit in the hands of Eintracht Frankfurt ended BlaugranaEurope’s journey this season and almost certainly cost them the chance to win a trophy in Xavi Hernández’s debut campaign in charge.
Barça are now turning their attention back to The league as they have eight games left and sit in second place, currently 12 points behind Real Madrid with one game in hand. The White has a tough remaining program and also has a Champions League semi-final against Manchester City to worry about, so it is at least possible that Carlo Ancelotti’s team could lose enough points to make the innings interesting.
Barça have a more favorable game compared to their biggest rivals, so a push for the title is possible, but to have a real chance they simply have to win all eight matches. The Europa League was certainly the easiest road to a trophy, but that road is now closed.
Barça went into last month’s international break as the hottest team in Europe after a sensational victory in The classic, but since returning home from the break, they have not been the same. The results are mostly good, especially in the league, but the Europa League exit combined with three straight subpar performances certainly gives cause for concern.
The two Frankfurt matches were some of the most disappointing during Xavi, and however epic it was, the victory against Levante on Sunday also showed some worrying signs in the first 60 minutes. The schedule has been very busy and playing every Thursday and Sunday is a huge fitness challenge, especially for a team without much depth, so it is possible that mental and physical fatigue has also played a role.
In theory, Barça have a comfortable match against Cádiz at home on Monday to return to win and play well again, but there is not much time to rest with Real Sociedad next Thursday and Rayo Vallecano just three days after that. The schedule will remain busy and Xavi and his men will have to find a way to regain the magic of February and March to continue winning.
The winner of the Golden Boy in 2021 has been ruled out for the rest of the season with a torn hind thigh, which is a very significant blow to Barça’s chances of winning their remaining matches to stay in the league competition. Pedri was without a doubt Barça’s best player over the last three months and he got better and more dominant with each match.
Fortunately for Barça, there is enough depth in midfield to at least try to compensate for his absence: Frenkie De Jong was ill and was not 100% against Frankfurt, but should soon be back at his best, Gavi continues to play very well and Nico González get a real chance to re-establish himself after a few subpar performances. Riqui Puig can also earn a few minutes between now and the end of the season, so there is enough talent to keep Barça’s midfield strong.
But Pedri is a special talent who enjoyed the best form in his young career and he will be greatly missed.
Without Gerard Piqué and Dani Alves and with Sergiño Dest not fit enough to start, Mingueza was given a golden opportunity by Xavi to win his confidence and several minutes at the end of the season. The full-back has been out of the coach’s plans for some time now, but he had a chance to kick the door wide open with a strong display on Thursday.
Unfortunately, that did not happen and Mingueza showed once again that he is not quite at the same level as the rest of his teammates at the back. Going up against a talent like Filip Kostic is not easy, especially without having played much lately, but Mingueza looked largely unqualified to deal with the Serbian winger, while also offering almost nothing when Barça had the ball. Mingueza is certainly not to blame for the loss one night when the entire team was below par, but he certainly did not do much to earn more playing time.
Mingueza had a good season last year under Ronald Koeman and looked like he could be a very useful backup with Xavi at the helm, but time seems to be running out from the 22-year-old’s chances for a real future with Barça.
The most shocking aspect of Thursday’s match was not the result or Frankfurt’s historic victory: it was the fact that 30,000 fans of the German club found their way into the stadium and turned Barça’s stadium into a home match in Frankfurt.
According to several reports, only 5,000 tickets were awarded to Frankfurt supporters, but over 25,000 German fans bought their tickets from Barcelona partners who decided not to participate in the game and earn a little extra money instead.
The singing section of the Camp Nou quietly protested against the fans selling their tickets by leaving their seats empty during the first 10 minutes of the second half, and President Joan Laporta said he was outraged by the situation and promised to launch an investigation and take measures to avoid a similar scenario in the future.