Barcelona v Real Betis: Why a Lack of Defence Is No Defence for Barca

Jason PettigroveContributor IApril 5, 2014

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Barcelona took on a bottom-placed Real Betis side at Camp Nou on Saturday evening, knowing only a win was good enough to keep pace with league-leaders Atletico Madrid, who had won earlier.

Given that three points was therefore imperative, the lacklustre and shambolic way in which the Blaugrana approached the game might well be a concern to Tata Martino.

Let's not forget that this Real Betis side were eight points from safety before the start of this match, and with 19 defeats already, they were comfortably the worst-performing team in La Liga.

Barca would do better concentrating on on-pitch issues rather than sending messages to FIFA.
Barca would do better concentrating on on-pitch issues rather than sending messages to FIFA.Manu Fernandez

That Barca were ordinary for the majority of the 90 minutes says an awful lot about how they must have approached the game. It was very reminiscent of the performance against Real Valladolid, a game which of course Barcelona lost.

On a different day and with lady luck on their side, Betis would've taken at least a point away from the Camp Nou. Without any doubt whatsoever, Barca's game will need to be raised significantly for their visit to the Vicente Calderon on Wednesday.

With Pedro Rodriguez and Alexis Sanchez restored to the side, the Blaugrana attack had more balance about it; and in Sanchez, Barca had the most industrious worker on the pitch.

No surprise that his hard work and quick feet won the penalty for Lionel Messi to score the opener, but Barca failed to build on their gift.

Lionel Messi scored his fifth penalty in five games.
Lionel Messi scored his fifth penalty in five games.Manu Fernandez

Within a few minutes, after a mix-up between Marc Bartra and Javier Mascherano, Betis' Cedrick should've hit the target. Somewhat embarrassingly for Martino, Betis were the more enterprising in attack. The lack of a cohesive defence from the Blaugrana at this level was simply astonishing.

Even the odd incisive burst from Messi or Pedro couldn't fail to disguise that this was a performance that was papering over the cracks, cracks that are in danger of becoming almighty chasms.

Ruben Castro's goal for Betis illustrated perfectly where the problems lie for Martino.

While Marc Bartra was caught way out of position, he is in essence a young man who is still very much learning his trade and in need of direction from his peers. In this case, Javier Mascherano.

Marc Bartra didn't have one of his best games, but needs direction.
Marc Bartra didn't have one of his best games, but needs direction.David Ramos/Getty Images

Once again, the Argentinian demonstrated quite clearly that he is not a central defender of any substance and certainly not one who can lead the defensive line.

Castro moved inside and, instead of standing tall, Mascherano went to ground, making the striker's finish an easy one.

A lack of simple, basic defending that is costing Barca time and again and a FIFA transfer ban really brings the chickens home to roost.

Thank goodness for Sergio Busquets, whose quiet and effective defensive midfield duties were carried out with his usual aplomb; and for the effervescence of Andres Iniesta, who, along with Xavi Hernandez, continued to take the game to the visitors.

Barca's two other goals owed much to lady luck, who obviously hadn't paid a visit to the green-and-white half of Seville recently.

BARCELONA, SPAIN - APRIL 05:  Head coach Gerardo 'Tata' Martino of FC Barcelona directs his players during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Real Betis Balompie at Camp Nou on April 5, 2014 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
David Ramos/Getty Images

Whistles from the ground during the latter part of the game were telling, as was the visitors having more attempts on goal than the hosts, per WhoScored.

The bottom team in La Liga having more attempts on goal away from home against the team placed second in the league. There's no defence to that.

Martino will be hoping his beginner's luck holds for a few more weeks yet.