Gerard Pique has revealed Luis Suarez's penalty against Rayo Vallecano on Thursday—which the striker ultimately missed—was initially offered to Javier Mascherano, but the Argentinian refused to take it.
According to Eliot Rothwell of Goal, Pique held a live question and answer session on Barca's team bus following the 5-1 rout and said: "We have told Mascherano to take a penalty but has not been confident or has not wanted to take it, I didn't ask."
Football journalist Rafael Hernandez was hoping the midfielder would step up:
Mascherano should take a penalty, or ter Stegen. That way everyone is happy if they score, laugh if they don’t.— Rafael Hernández (@RafaelH117) March 3, 2016
Per Sky Sports Statto, Suarez's miss continues Barca's poor record from the spot this season, meaning they have now missed nine of the 18 they have received in all competitions:
Suarez's penalty is saved - Barca have failed from 9 of their 18 spot-kicks in all comps this season pic.twitter.com/BKRbeGGpLX— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) March 3, 2016
That does include Lionel Messi's indirect penalty pass to Suarez against Celta Vigo, which the striker scored, as it goes down as a miss.
As MisterChip revealed on Twitter, the Blaugrana are now just one missed penalty away from an unwanted record in La Liga:
Missed penalties in 1 La Liga season:— MisterChip (English) (@MisterChiping) March 3, 2016
[7/11] Barcelona 1976-77
[7/13] Tenerife 1990-91
[7/13] BARCELONA 2015-16
As football writer Ben Hayward noted, the Catalan giants are fortunate their level of performance in open play is so high it makes up for their shortcomings in spot-kicks:
It's lucky that Barcelona are so good that they don't need to score penalties! That's nine they have missed this season now. Amazing.— Ben Hayward (@bghayward) March 3, 2016
Indeed, despite being so unreliable in penalties, Thursday's win—in which Messi scored a hat-trick—represents an impressive milestone for Barca, per MisterChip:
ALL TIME RECORD- Barcelona are the first club to achieve an undefeated run of 35 matches in Spanish football, above Madrid— MisterChip (English) (@MisterChiping) March 3, 2016
Last 35 Barcelona games:— MisterChip (English) (@MisterChiping) March 3, 2016
107 goals for
020 goals against
Whereas most teams can ill afford to miss as golden an opportunity to score as a penalty, their profligacy at spot-kicks has hardly proved costly, as they are firmly in control in La Liga's title race, eight points ahead of Atletico Madrid and 12 points ahead of Real Madrid.
They will also contest the Copa del Rey final with Sevilla and look likely to progress to the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League having taken a commanding 2-0 lead against Arsenal in the first leg of their round-of-16 tie.
Hernandez believes Barca will inevitably come to face a penalty shootout in one of the two tournaments:
We all know how football is, Barça will face a penalty shootout in the UCL or Cup final this season.— Rafael Hernández (@RafaelH117) March 3, 2016
Indeed, while the Blaugrana are more than capable of winning matches inside 90 or 120 minutes against any opposition, a shootout would be a fitting test.
Spot-kicks are the only glaring weakness in this otherwise imperious team. While it may not be as pressing an issue as other deficiencies are in other sides, Barca could do with spending more time in training devoted to practising them.
Having every member of the side—including defensive players like Mascherano—be comfortable taking them will also be useful should they be forced into a shootout. If they can master scoring from the spot, they'll be truly unstoppable.