Barcelona have come across an uncharacteristic rough patch having lost two in a row, but the slate gets much easier over the weekend with a road trip to face FC Cartagena in the Copa del Rey.
Lose two straight matches without your best player and it's like the world is ending—such is life for Barcelona. Their lead in La Liga has evaporated after a loss to Athletic Bilbao, which was preceded by a Champions League defeat at the hands of Ajax.
Andres Iniesta and company will look to get back into the win column at Cartagena, who dwell two leagues beneath La Liga in Segunda Division B and will need a miracle to garner a point against the Spanish giants.
Here's a look at everything you need to know for the match.
When: Friday, Dec. 6 at 4 p.m. ET
Where: Estadio Cartagonova; Cartagena, Spain
TV: beIN Sport Español
Live Stream: beIN Sport Play
Top Storyline: Would Lopsided Barca Win Impress Disappointed Fans?
It's almost a formality that Barcelona will rebound from a bad result to crush their next opponent, no matter who it may be. But what happens when they lose two straight?
Another fair question to ask is whether a dominating win over Cartagena—not exactly the most dangerous of opponents—will even make the Barcelona fans who are accustomed to titles take notice.
After the league loss to Athletic Bilbao, La Blaugrana have company at the top of La Liga now as Atletico Madrid joined them with 40 points. Combined with the Champions League loss to Ajax a few days prior, Barca scored just one goal in two matches.
Of course, Associated Press reported (via Sports Illustrated) that Lionel Messi's thigh injury suffered on Nov. 10 may keep him out for the rest of 2013. He's still on pace to do so, according to Daily Mail's John Drayton.
What will be the outcome?
In their first La Liga appearance after Messi went down, Barca seemed fine on offense in a 4-0 win over Granada. But since then, offensive firepower has been few and far between.
Given the fact that Cartagena dwell in Segunda Division B, Barcelona should have no problem scoring early and often despite playing without Messi. But with such a major talent gap on paper, anything else would be a big surprise.
Barcelona players, fans and coaches are used to dominating La Liga and international competitions on a week by week basis and these two recent losses will resonate in their minds for some time.
Don't expect that to change after a huge margin of victory against Cartagena.
As I noted earlier, the question isn't whether Barcelona will win this match, but by how many goals.
It certainly won't wipe away the memories of this losing streak, but Barcelona will be on attack mode throughout this match as they get back into the win column.
With studs like Neymar, Cesc Fabregas and Pedro ready to prove that there isn't a scoring problem in Barcelona, La Blaugrana will find a way to bury their overmatched opponent early and put this one on cruise control in the final minutes.
Barcelona 5, Cartagena 0