A tough week for Barcelona. Out of the Europa League
In the spring, Barcelona’s revitalized spirit and play under Xavi had a chance to sweeten or even salvage a disappointing season with a Europa League win and pursuit of Real Madrid in the Spanish championship until the last round. But in the space of just four days, Barcelona’s fragile hopes were dashed.
A loss at Eintracht and a scandal at Camp Nou
A struggling Barcelona were widely regarded as the heavy favorite in the Europa League, and Javi’s exit from their quarterfinal clash with Eintracht was all the more surprising. The German club’s win on aggregate of two matches was absolutely logical. “The Eagles looked better than Barça in both encounters, the 1-1 draw in Frankfurt being a regal gift to the Catalans as Eintracht generated threats while the Barcelona players rolled the ball across the pitch. The hosts had twice as many shots on goal (16-7) and were frustrated with the final score, but a week later dealt brutally with Xavi’s team at Camp Nou, where they led 3-0 and only in the end allowed the hosts to stand up for their honour with a couple of goals.
The Europa League exit was disappointing, but even worse was what happened in the stands. Some 30,000 noisy Eintracht fans bought tickets, filled the Camp Nou and gave their team a real home support in another’s arena. Joan Laporta called what happened “a disgrace” in the heat of the moment, with the president blaming the Barcelona fans who “robbed their own team” directly at a special press conference:
“The club is not to blame for what happened in the game against Eintracht, but we will take responsibility. “Barcelona sold 5,000 tickets to German fans, the mandatory away quota. Online purchases from Germany were not available, but a group of our fans gave their season tickets to Eintracht fans, and about 7,000 more fans bought discounted tickets and gave them to Germans. We also found abuse on the part of the tour operator, whose contract will soon be terminated. We don’t want to turn it into a witch hunt, but conclusions will be drawn. We inherited this system [of ticket distribution] from the previous board. We thought it was workable, but we saw that it wasn’t. We are working on a set of measures to make sure it won’t happen again.
Active fans boycotted the match against Cadiz
Laporta is quick to retaliate and blamed his predecessors (Bartomeu’s junta is easy to blame for the sins – one more, one less) and the Barcelona fans. And here it seems to have gone wrong. The ordinary fans refuse to admit that there are tens of thousands of “traitors” in their ranks, irritated by the president’s attempt to shift responsibility to the masses, who are not named by name.
Blamed “season ticket holders” – conduct a purge of the ranks, no one has cancelled personal responsibility, and so spat in the direction of the fans, but promised not to arrange a “witch hunt. The situation could not be smoothed out, on the contrary, Barcelona fell out of the atmosphere of universal love and a thrill of rebirth into the ocean of everyday irritation and sudden return of hatred.
Active Barcelona fans have decided to boycott Monday’s game against Cadiz, calling Barcelona’s current ticket distribution system “perverse” in a statement.
Xavi has a young team at his disposal, and although wildly talented and promising in soccer, it is too early to speak of psychological stability and unshakable confidence. No matter how diligently Laporta looks for someone to blame, the end of the season for Barcelona’s resurgent side was blighted by the club, first by inaction and then by their ridiculous reaction to what had happened.
There is, however, a soccer reason: Pedri, replaced at half-time against Eintracht, dropped out until the end of the season, and Xavi was deprived of his key player. The key factor, however, was the sudden change in the surrounding reality, from a favorable to a negative one. In the Europa League, the team was surprised and frightened by the Germans seizing the stands, although Laporta and Co should have taken action immediately after the drawing of the 1/4 final, because Eintracht fans are famous for massive outings.
“Cadiz confirmed the fame of “kryptonite” for Barcelona
On top of that, Barça lost to Cadiz in La Liga and are de facto out of the championship race: Real Madrid need only win seven points in the remaining six games to pocket the title. The strangest thing is that the Spanish championship outsider created more chances at the Camp Nou than the hosts – 1.82 xG vs. 1.12 xG – and won deservedly.
Thanks to this victory, Cadiz got out of the relegation zone, and in general, this modest team has two wins and two draws in games against Barcelona since returning to the Primera in 2020. Is it even legal to do that? Barcelona also suffered two straight home defeats at Camp Nou for the first time in 19 years. The unbeaten streak of 15 matches in La Liga came to an end, and Xavi admitted he was irritated with the results of the last few games:
“We missed a great opportunity to get close to Real Madrid and ahead of those who are fighting for the Champions League. I think we have said goodbye to the title and now we are in a tough race to get to the top 4. I am irritated, and the team is angry after these two games. We lacked desire and determination, we have to play better. It was a really bad week, but we have to move on. On Thursday we have another final against Real Sociedad.