On Tuesday, Barcelona beat Bayer Leverkusen 3-1 at the BayArena in a fairly comfortable outing for the Spanish side.
Alexis Sanchez showed his worth with two goals on his Champions League debut, with Lionel Messi adding a third late in the match. Barcelona now go into the second leg of the tie as huge favorites to reach the quarterfinals.
Nevertheless, this victory does not cover up the huge problems that Barcelona are experiencing at the moment. The Blaugrana are a massive 10 points behind Spanish league leaders Real Madrid, with three draws and a loss in their last seven matches. In addition, they have kept a clean sheet in just one of their last 11 away games.
While it cannot be said that Barcelona are in a crisis (yet, at least), even the most die-hard fans will agree that the team is having problems. And it is their defense that is most concerning.
In the most recent game at Osasuna, Barca's defense was all over the place and made unacceptable mistakes. Osasuna scored three goals, all of which were caused by carelessness at the back.The third goal, in particular, was scored after some unbelievably poor defending.
For this game, Barca had both Puyol and Pique in at center-back, as well as Mascherano in the defensive midfield spot. So they can have no excuses for their performance.
Even Barcelona's generally superb attack has been a little bit lacking recently. This current Blaugarana side, which normally has no problem putting the ball in the net, has scored just 10 goals in its last seven matches.
Barcelona supporters won't be too worried about this lack of scoring, as the team's attacking play has been good. And after the superb performances of Lionel Messi and Sanchez against Bayer Leverkusen, there will be even less concerns about the team's offense.
Right now, Guardiola has to think about his side's current situation and find a way to halt the slow decline. While his defense is the main discussion point, the Spanish coach may choose to look at the mental side of his team. Barcelona players don't have a history of being fazed by psychological issues, but Guardiola's refusal to sign a contract could be affecting some players.
I doubt that the problems in the Barca camp have too much relation with the mentality of his team, but that could be a factor in his side's poor form as of late. On the whole, however, the defense's lack of consistency and quality has been the main reason for Barcelona's recent downfall.
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