Barça lost their appetite for the League the day they could bill half a title after Madrid drew with Atlético at the Bernabéu. The draw in the Madrid derby did not exactly stimulate the Catalans but rather caused reluctance in a team that, if it reached the lead, was more for running than for playing, for stealing the ball than for developing its football, for winning the areas with Ter Stegen and Lewandowski. The goalkeeper conceded the eighth goal of the tournament and the striker did not appear in a grotesque appointment for Barcelona. The 1-0 so associated with the azulgrana played for once against them and in favor of Almería. The Barca chaos contrasted with the organization set up by Rubi and the Andalusians were finally able to claim victory against an opponent they had not been able to defeat in 13 League games and two Cup games.
Fernando Martínez, Srdan Babic, Akieme, Rodrigo Ely, Chumi, César De la Hoz, Eguaras (Pozo, min. 83), Leo Baptistao (Samuel Costa, min. 83), Lucas Robertone (Ramazani, min. 75), Luis Suárez (Embarba, min. 75) and El Bilal Toure (Kaiky, min. 89)
Ter Stegen, Sergi Roberto (Pablo Torre, min. 75), A. Christensen, Eric Garcia (Ronald Araújo, min. 66), Alba (Marcos Alonso, min. 66), Kessié Franck (Raphinha, min. 45), Frenkie De Jong, Busquets (Ángel Alarcón, min. 75), Ferrán Torres, Gavi and Lewandowski
goals 1-0 min. 24: The Bilal Toure.
Referee Miguel Angel Ortiz Arias
Yellow cards Eric Garcia (min. 34), Lucas Robertone (min. 47), Raphinha (min. 53), Gavi (min. 57) and Fernando Martínez (min. 86)
No one disputed Almería’s victory the day Barcelona suffered their second defeat in the championship after the one suffered in October at the Bernabéu. The team did not want to be less than the club and shot itself in the foot after an immaculate 2023. The gap with Madrid did not increase to 10 points but was cut to seven because the Catalans lost to an opponent who was fighting for not descend to Second Division.
The aftermath of Old Trafford and the preparations for the Bernabéu have already lowered Barça’s lineup in Almería. Xavi surely thought that unlike the Cup, the League allows a greater margin for rotations after the elimination from Europe. Although he kept the four midfielders, the coach rested Raphinha in favor of Ferran Torres up front and set up a defense without Araujo or Koundé while Sergi Roberto returned to the right-back position and Jordi Alba stretched out on the left flank. The changes destabilized the most reliable line and the team gave Almería a lot of time. Barcelona was a vulnerable team, too cold, even lazy, not intense in the midfield and disconnected from Lewandowski.
bad timing of the ram
The Polish striker has lost a shot and a goal since the team played without wingers and Dembélé is out due to injury. The striker plays more with his back than facing the opponent’s goal, forced to download more than to set up the shot, very aware of the inside passes from the midfielders, especially the tireless Gavi. It took a while for Lewandowski to appear and the improvement in possession and the passing line did not help to improve Barcelona’s rhythm. The team was intemperate and distracted against a concentrated and aggressive Almería. The goal of the powerful El Bilal denounced above all the absenteeism and softness of Barça. The forward beat Christensen twice in the melee and finished off from point-blank range after combining with the fierce Luis Suárez.
The goal sequence was repeated with each play because Barça lost the ball while Almería anticipated. Rubi’s boys had two frank chances —one from Leo Baptistão and another from Ely— to score the second goal before Barça kicked wide of the goal of the second most thrashed team in the League behind Elche. Neither Ferran nor Lewandowski came into play, nor did Alba delve deeper, there was no news from Sergi Roberto and Almería’s direct football was always better than Barça’s. Xavi had no choice but to change a midfielder (Kessié) for a striker (Raphinha) to try to wake up his team with a more offensive deployment: 4-3-3.
The azulgranas took the ball and entrusted themselves to Raphinha. The game, however, was baroque, imprecise, without depth or dribbling, easy to defend for Rubi’s defenders. At the time of the game, not a single shot by Barça had been counted against Fernando’s goal. The Almería area was only rained with crosses without stopping and also without finishing off for the enjoyment of the Almería fans. Xavi’s response was to resort to Marcos Alonso and Araujo to contain with three center backs: 3-4-3. New drawing change that underlined the disorganization of Barcelona personified in the erratic Busquets before being replaced and leaving the luck of the team in the young Alarcón and Pablo Torre. And Alarcón was the first and only Barça player to shoot at 82 minutes against Pacheco.
The game began and ended in Ter Stegen’s goal because the goalkeeper saved the 2-0 in extra time in a one-on-one with Embarba. Even Xavi admitted that his team played one of the worst matches, if not the worst of the course, against a rival that has 22 of the 25 points in the Mediterranean Games. The passion of Almería contrasted with the apathy of a Barça team lost in terms of football without Pedri when there are 15 League games left and the Cup semifinals against Madrid are announced after losing in two such different venues as Old Trafford and in Almería.
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