Barcelona’s European woes continued as the Catalan side was only able to salvage a 2-2- draw against Manchester United.
Marcos Alonso opened the score for the home side before Marcus Rashford scored twice to give the visitors the lead. A shot/cross from Raphinha got through the United defense for the equalizer.
With that being said, here are three talking points from the match.
Barcelona got a result in spite of Xavi Hernandez
Many eyebrows were raised when the Barcelona starting line-up was confirmed. The system was the same but the personnel was different. In defense, Xavi opted to go for Alonso and Jordi Alba in place of Andreas Christensen and Alejandro Balde. He also swapped Jules Kounde and Ronald Araújo with the former playing as a center-back and the latter as the right-back.
Almost from the get-go the mistake was obvious.
Despite Alonso giving Barcelona the lead, he was unable to keep up with Rashford in the first goal — albeit with some blame aimed at Marc-Andre ter Stegen as well. Alba was largely ineffective on the left as he had to worry more about defending but was routinely beaten for pace.
Araújo did as best he could at right-back but he, too, was left wanting when it came to attacking.
Before the match started, Xavi was asked why he made those changes.
“The two changes at the back are because there are many games coming and we have to use all players to prevent injuries, we need to rotate,” Xavi said.
That’s all well and good but deciding to rotate against Manchester United in one of the biggest games of the season was perhaps not the most opportune time. Especially when he could have rotated in the upcoming match at home against Cadiz. It’s no surprise the team looked better in the second half once Christensen and Balde replaced Alonso and Alba.
Pedri adds to the list of injuries
Pedri picked up an injury during the first half of the game and had to be replaced by Sergi Roberto. He joins Ousmane Dembélé and Sergio Busquets on the sideline.
In addition to the amount of time he’s going to miss, another worrying aspect for Barcelona is they will be without Pedri and Gavi for the return leg as the latter picked up a yellow card meaning he is suspended for the game at Old Trafford.
Already without Busquets — who may be back by then — Xavi is left wanting for midfield options should he stick with four midfielders.
There is no question how important Pedri is to this Barcelona side. Much like the club, however, playing in Europe seems to be a curse as this is the third time he has picked up an injury in a European match. Last season, it was also in the Europa League against Eintracht Frankfurt and the year before that, it was in the Champions League against Bayern Munich.
Pedri is expected to miss at least a month, also ruling him out of the Copa del Rey semifinals against Real Madrid. Injuries are never a good thing but for Barcelona, it’s even worse considering their run of fixtures.
Camp Nou no longer the fortress it once was
The only time Barcelona have won a game in Europe at the Camp Nou was the opening match of the Champions League group stage against Viktoria Plzen. Since then, they’ve drawn against Inter Milan, lost to Bayern Munich and drawn Manchester United, respectively.
Playing at home is no longer the comfort it used to be. In fact, the Catalans have only won two of their last 12 European matches at the Camp Nou.
While Xavi did state this tie would be decided at Old Trafford, not coming away with a lead when the first match is at home is more than disappointing.
There is a certain pressure of playing at home and suffering some humiliating losses at home recently could have something to do with it. Xavi certainly didn’t help things with the team he decided to field.
How else does it explain the own goal from Kounde and Ter Stegen being beaten at his near post for the equalizer?
Barcelona may not play another European game at the Camp Nou if they can’t get a win away at Old Trafford next week. In the Europa League last season, they were better playing away than at home.
They’ll need to be better once again and hopefully, for their sake, Xavi goes with his strongest line-up and doesn’t try to tinker with it. As the old saying goes, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”