Barcelona looking to head into the break with a win over Almeria

The Catalan side need a win and they'll have an opportunity to get one against bottom of the table Almeria.
Royal Antwerp FC v FC Barcelona: Group H - UEFA Champions League 2023/24
Royal Antwerp FC v FC Barcelona: Group H - UEFA Champions League 2023/24 / Isosport/MB Media/GettyImages

Barcelona want to head into the holiday break on a positive note. To do so, they know they need to pick up a win against Almeria.

The Catalan side is in the midst of a three-game winless streak after suffering losses against Girona and Royal Antwerp before managing only a draw against Valencia.

The pressure is mounting on Xavi Hernandez to right the ship. He's come under some heavy criticism not only for the results, but for the poor performances practically throughout the whole season.

"We need to be more effective and decisive in defense and attack, and I think the reason why we are nine points behind Girona is because of our own mistakes," said Xavi during his pre-match press conference.

Barcelona were wasteful against Valencia and against Girona. However, the decisiveness Xavi speaks of has been missing this season. Some of that falls on the players but some of that falls on the manager as well who has been unable to find a solution for that indecisiveness and rather simple mistakes that have cost the Catalan side.

Already without Frenkie de Jong who will miss the match after picking up his fifth yellow card against Valencia, Barcelona will once again be without Pedri who suffered an injury during training and is expected to miss a couple of weeks.

"First team player Pedri got a knock in training this morning and has a slight muscle injury. He is ruled out of selection and his recovery will determine his return," said a statement released by the club.

Almeria currently sit at the bottom of the league table, having given up 39 goals, the most among the first division teams. But Barcelona have dropped points against sides many would have assumed they would beat.

Given the pressure on both the manager and the players, this could be an opportunity to get a comfortable win. On the other hand, should they struggle, scrape to a win or drop points, the pressure may be too much for Xavi to overcome.

While Barcelona are not a club who fire managers midway through the season, they may not have much choice if they fall even further behind of second place Real Madrid and leaders Girona. Barcelona president Joan Laporta has backed Xavi at every corner but may not be left with much choice.

Xavi isn't thinking about his future, however, only on Almeria and on getting back into the title race.

"it's a difference that we can make up," Xavi said. "It's a matter of not slipping up and starting to rack up wins, starting against Almeria. To win the league, we need to take things step-by-step, we need to win games, we need the fans and we need to put in a complete performance, which is something we haven't been doing yet."

With the number of absences in midfield, Marc Casadó could be the main beneficiary to start alongside Ilkay Gundogan and either Fermin Lopez or Raphinha. With the growing doubts on Oriol Romeu, Casadó could be given the nod in central midfield.

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It will be important for Barcelona to get off to a fast start or, at the very least, head into halftime in the lead. Under Xavi, they've performed better in the second half. But with the lack of results, any momentum can only work in their favor.