Goals... the only area where Xavi's Barça are lacking
Xavi has brought order and belief to Barça, but the one thing he cannot do for them is score goals. Scoring is outside of what a coach can do for his team, you either have players who can score or you go out and buy them. Barça have a striker who scores with ease, Ansu Fati, but he is sidelined - one of several players on a long injury list. Memphis, a striker who has shown he can also score a few, has been going through a barren patch. Braithwaite and Luuk are both duds, to put it bluntly. And goals aren’t coming from anywhere else in the team. In the five group games played so far in the Champions League, Barça have scored just two goals. Looking at it another way, they have served them well, because they are on seven points.
Goals running on dry for Barcelona
Once again, like against Espanyol, we saw a lively Barça during the first half against Benfica, pressing, threatening, with young stars Nico and Gavi playing carefree and intelligently, and with Busquets conducting every move with authority. But hardly any attempts on goal. The best of them, a neat, curled effort from Demir (another promising player who is coming through) which looked to be heading into the top corner but struck the upright. After the break, just like the other day in the game against Espanyol, the team faded away, either because of fatigue or a lack of self confidence. But this time, unlike in the derby, Xavi had an ace up his sleeve: Dembélé. He gave Barça a new lease of life, spurred on his team mates, and intimidated Benfica, but even with Dembélé breaching the visitors backline, that elusive opening goal just would not come.
Barcelona's chances of progressing
Benfica are at home to bottom-placed Dinamo Kiev in the final group game while Barça travel to Munich. Barça must beat Bayern if Benfica win; a draw or even a defeat would be enough if Benfica draw or lose. “We have to win in Munich,” was how Xavi summed it up last night. Barça need to secure second place come what may, but they will go into the wolf's lair to get it. Villarreal and Sevilla’s future in the tournament will also be decided on the final day - in Bergamo and Salzburg respectively. That doesn’t inspire confidence, it hasn’t been the most inspiring Champions League for Spanish clubs for one thing or another. We hope that Atlético and Real Madrid don’t slip up later tonight.
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