In the most surprising result of the weekend in Spain, Barcelona, without their leader Xavi and David Villa, were held to a 1-1 draw by Michael Laudrup's Mallorca. It's the fifth point Barcelona lost at home this season, in only three matches (to put it in perspective, Barcelona only lost two points at home last season in nineteen matches).
This poor home form has relegated Barcelona to fourth place in La Liga (three points behind leaders Valencia and one point behind Real Madrid, who both won this weekend), despite a perfect away record.
Barcelona started the match strong and in the first 25 minutes they created many chances while stopping Mallorca from advancing past their goal area. In the 21st minute, Lionel Messi, the best player in the world, scored the opener with class.
After that, Barcelona kept dominating and wasting chances, too many chances. However, in the 43th minute, Barcelona's defense was caught sleeping again (like many times this season so far) and Mallorca equalized from a corner kick in their first real chance. Guardiola must definitely work on Barcelona's defense; too many goals are being offered to opponents.
After a dominating first half (despite the scoreline), everyone expected Barcelona to bounce back and win the match. However, the first half-hour of the second half was absolutely disastrous for the blaugrana; the team misplaced too many passes and allowed Mallorca to become threatening in attack.
Without Xavi, Barcelona were unable to play their usual football. Only with Thiago, Nolito and Jeffrén on the field did Barcelona finally start creating chances again. Bojan hit the woodwork in Barcelona's best chance in the final minutes.
In fact, that's the only positive aspect of today's match for Barcelona; the three aforementioned youngsters came into the match in the second half and they showed excellent promise. Barcelona's future seems assured.
For now, however, things aren't looking great for Barcelona and their inability to perform at their usual level without Xavi is quite worrying. Also, Mascherano was given a chance to start today and his performance was quite disappointing; he hasn't adapted yet and, at least for now, he's not a worthy substitute for the in-form Sergio Busquets, whom the team missed a lot today.
Pep Guardiola has expressed his concerns, especially with the team's wastefulness: "Today we have no excuse. We should have closed out this game, and we have dropped two points. We create chances in every match, and we need to start realising them.
“This year, there will be no way we will reach 99 points. The number we added last year is very difficult to get, and I do not think we will get that amount again,” said the Barcelona manager.
The league has just started and the differences are quite meaningless at this point, but the five points wasted at home in three matches are not a good sign and the international break might have come at just the right time for Barcelona.
In two weeks, Barcelona will host leaders Valencia at Camp Nou in a must-win match. With Xavi and David Villa back, there's every reason to believe that Barcelona will win and finally hit top form. If not, Barcelona's title hopes will suffer a major blow.
It's time for Pep Guardiola and his men to show what they're made of. The match against Valencia might determine how the rest of the season will play out for the catalan outfit.
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