Barcelona vs PSG. We have all been waiting for this game. The moment where Barcelona would shift in gear and kickstart their season. On the other hand, PSG wanted revenge. The whole world was watching.
Barcelona vs PSG – the line-ups
Ronald Koeman seems to have heard the prayers of fans and included Gerard Pique and Sergiño Dest. Pique had not played since 21st November, while Dest couldn’t find his form since the start of 2021.
Either way, apart from those two changes, Barcelona put out their strongest line-up and looked to build on their winning ways. Winning 7 of their last eight meant the Catalans are in their form of the season. However, it didn’t take too long before all came crashing down like a house of cards.
Defensively the team got exposed once again. Better opposition, clear tactical instruction, and determination has proven to be the kryptonite for Barcelona.
Pique was included in the starting line-up for the first time in two and a half months. Some of his mistakes can be explained by the lack of playing time, but there are still glaring defensive deficiencies.
On the first goal, he is very tight to Mbappe, but as the ball is switched to the other flank, he drops off to cover space behind while leaving Mbappe alone. Dest runs to cover that space, but Kurzawa plays the ball first-time to Veratti.
The same thing can be said about the whole defensive line. They just drop deeper and completely neglect the space in front. Veratti and Mbappe combine to put PSG level on the night. When off the ball, Barcelona turns into a very mediocre team. They lack defensive resilience, and the absence of communication only compounds that issue.
Jordi Alba and Lenglet, for no reason, decide to go out and press Moise Kean. That leaves massive space behind them.
Griezmann doesn’t cover either, and the result is a mess of a goal.
But regardless of the continued moments where Barcelona was on the back foot, they never changed their shape, neither approached the game differently. Same commitment going forward, and the same lack of desire to run back and help defensively. The fourth goal was the icing on the cake. Barcelona losses possession of a corner kick and they immediately try to recover it.
There are nine Barcelona players in an advanced position, and the inability to regain possession means a clear opportunity for PSG. Lenglet gambles, and he is in the middle of nowhere. PSG has a 4v2 situation from the half-way line. If Jose Mourinho was the coach of that Barcelona team, he would’ve resigned at the end of the game. From a purely footballing perspective, the effort was missing, and the defending was so awful that people begging Pique to come back for that game now turned their prayers to Araujo.
Even with Pique in the team, the set-pieces are an issue. If your broadcaster didn’t add artificial sound you can hear before Paredes’ free-kick how Pique counts “uno, dos, tres”. That is specifically to organize the defense so they can run back together at the same time. Not only do they leave Moise Kean alone, but Pique and Alba are also the ones who play him onside.
The picture shows the position of the defence when Pique shouts “tres” meaning start running. That isn’t due to time off the pitch, neither the injury. That’s the leader of the defence, showing he can’t be trusted in those situations either. For you to do the count and you being the guy covering the offside is unacceptable.
The few opportunities Barcelona had in the attack were either finished unconvincingly or the selfishness came out front and centre. Against Alaves in the weekend, I highlighted the Trincao horrific decision one on one with the goalkeeper while Moriba waited for a tap-in on an open goal.
For poor execution like those examples, there is no excuse. Fair to say that if this was 10-20 years ago that would be a major issue in the team. And judging their body language maybe it is an issue.
At the end of the day, everybody watching this game knew the Barcelona of old was gone. In moments like this, when hitting the reset button can’t come quick enough, the club can figure out who is worth being part of the future. They will either keep on fighting and wipe away the embarrassment at the Parc des Princes, or the final nail in the coffin will be placed. Three long weeks ahead for Blaugrana.