The questions are being asked about what has gone wrong in the Barca dressing room with the main concern the resignation on the players faces against Real Madrid. The intensity was missing as they allowed Madrid to play the ball out of defence and when Madrid scored their heads dropped and they looked around to teammates in exasperation. Andres Iniesta can’t explain what went wrong but is sure they will get it right.
Obviously there is no crisis at Camp Nou with the side sitting comfortably on top of the la liga table but still after such an all-conquering first half of the season where they only dropped two points in the league up until Christmas, it is surprising the manner of their defeats against Milan and Madrid.
There was the indication that all was not right when they lost 3-2 away to Real Sociedad but that could be put down to a one off but now there is a noticeable trend taking place.
The team has become used to responding as the Madrid game was their 12th consecutive where they conceded a goal and they are leaving themselves open at the back. Against Milan and Madrid though there wasn’t the usual confidence and belief in a comeback.
The obvious question is to look at who is leading them and the drop in form has coincided with Tito Vilanova being absent and undergoing cancer treatment in New York. Perhaps Jordi Roura lacks the personality and charisma to motivate the players in the same way.
They have the ideal opportunity to bounce back though this weekend when they face Madrid again in the league.
“There is little to say, we are not the same as normal and there is something that we are not doing right. Saturday we have another battle. We are depressed today – we are feeling this defeat more than anyone – but we want to give the fans another final and we have the chance against Milan on March 12. Our mentality is not going to change and we have to go out against them as though our lives depended on it.
“We are doing things wrong and we need to look at them. It is not just the defence which is at fault for the goals conceded but the whole team. It is wrong to just look at Leo as we are not as fresh as we were and so the whole team needs to give more.
“Obviously we miss a figurehead like Tito but that is not the reason for the problems, it is just another factor. It is not a situation that can be compared with the final year of Frank Rijkaard at the club.
Only Jordi Alba was able to offer a late consolation as Barca went down 3-1 against Madrid to be knocked out of the Copa del Rey.
There were no surprises in the Barcelona lineup with Andres Iniesta preferred in attack to David Villa which allowed space for Cesc Fabregas in midfield. Jose Mourinho chose Raphael Varane, who did so well in the first leg, ahead of Pepe to partner Sergio Ramos in the heart of the Madrid defence while finally there was no space for the rejuvenated Kaka with Angel Di Maria starting on the right wing.
Barca began at a high-tempo with Iniesta firing wide from 20 yards and then Messi screwed an angled shot with his weaker right foot past the post from the edge of the six-yard box before two minutes were even on the clock.
While they had their usual attacking ethos they were not pressing with the same intensity high up the pitch and so when Madrid did pick up possession they were able to play their way out of defence.
Cesc had another effort which was comfortably blocked by keeper Diego Lopez before Madrid took the lead from a penalty after a breakaway which showed the danger they possess in attack, as well as Barca’s suspect defence.
Ronaldo knocked the ball around Gerard Pique inside the area and his former Manchester United teammate brought him down for a spot-kick which the Portuguese converted.
Barca were hoping for a penalty of their own moments later but the referee waved away appeals for a foul by Alvaro Arbeloa on Cesc and it showed how the home side were becoming more frustrated at their inability to create clear-cut chances.
Madrid were defending well while they continued to threaten through Ronaldo counter-attacks.
Barca did win a free-kick on the edge of the area for a foul by Arbeloa after on Iniesta for which he was booked after 37 minutes and Messi’s shot went a whisker past the post.
Barca attacked with renewed vigour after the break but it was Madrid who scored again after 57 minutes. Di Maria skipped round Carles Puyol and keeper Jose Manuel Pinto could only parry his shot to Ronaldo who kept his composure to slot home.
The Catalan side looked stunned and lost their shape at the back as Madrid cut them apart. Varane got their third as he outjumped the Barca defence at a corner to head in off the crossbar.
A minute from the end Barca did finally get on the scoresheet with Alba knocking in a ball over the top from Iniesta.