One game in, Barcelona are under pressure

A decisive week lies in wait for Barcelona.

Still hurting from the late loss at Athletic Bilbao, the Blaugrana find themselves in an unusual position. They have lost on the opening day of a new season for the first time in a decade. They have also lost to an opponent they haven’t lost to in a season opener in seven decades.

Barca now find themselves below their eternal rivals, Real Madrid, for the first time in almost 80 matchdays. The team now sits at a despondent 15th position on the log, even if it’s just after one game. Such is the undesirable situation at Barcelona.

The loss at San Mames is ruffling feathers at the Camp Nou. First, Barcelona have shown arguably the greatest misfit of the team in Philippe Coutinho, the exit door to Bayern Munich on loan, and it is not certain some unwanted players like Rafinha Alcantara and Juan Miranda, will stay.

Next, there is a race against time to sign a former player in Neymar, from the reluctant and assertive negotiators, Paris Saint-Germain. The transfer window ends on September 2, and every day and hour counts. With Real Madrid in the race to sign the Brazilian, Barca captain Lionel Messi has insisted the club do everything to get the Brazilian back to the team. The board really has to be up and doing if the team is to seriously compete for trophies on all fronts.

Public opinion is also being directed towards the big-money signings in the team. So far, Antoine Griezmann has not lived up to expectation. He is not yet the lethal striker he was for Atletico Madrid. Frenkie de Jong has been spectacular in midfield, but, for the most part, he hasn’t enjoyed the fluidity that comes with playing for Barca. Although he has put in some effort, Ousmane Dembele has only shown glimpses of his potential. He cut a lonely figure at Bilbao, and he hasn’t really helped the team in the area that is needed the most – goal scoring. In fact, Rafinha – who’s future is uncertain, was by far a better performer as a substitute than Dembele.

The French man is now leading the spate of injuries to key players, having picked up a hamstring injury after the match. Goalkeeper Neto (broken hand) is also injured. Luis Suarez (calf), got injured in the first half of the Bilbao clash, but the positive news is that Messi should be making his first competitive return on the pitch since the Copa America in Brazil, having trained this week.

This season is going to be tougher than ever and the big guns will have their work cut out.  Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid had to grind out wins on the opening weekend, likewise Sevilla, who needed a late goal at Espanyol to seal victory. Valencia’s hope of a home victory was dashed by a 100th minute penalty by Real Sociedad. Notably, Villarreal were held to an eight-goal thrilling draw at home to newly-promoted Granada.

It is expected that Barcelona will win their next league match against Real Betis this weekend, but for any soccer fan with a good memory, this expectation is not set in stone. Los Cules lost to them 3-4 last season, though they have signed Junior Firpo, one of the architects of that Betis victory. The tension is building and Ernesto Valverde’s men will play in front of the Camp Nou crowd competitively for the first time this season. It is high time the team started collecting league points. Anything less than a win this Sunday will surely make Neymar’s return a necessity.

Time is ticking out…

What are your thoughts about Barcelona’s current predicament? Drop them in the comments box

Follow Akin on Twitter: @mac_akin_ajayi

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Mac Akin Ajayi

Writer & Blogger

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