The Catalan side fail to seal their place in the last 16 and the ghosts of the past are once again haunting them

Xavi, the big target of Barça's crisis after the defeat against Shakhtar

El entrenador español del Barcelona, Xavi - PHOTO/AFP/AXEL HEIMKEN
photo_camera PHOTO/AFP/AXEL HEIMKEN - Barcelona's Spanish coach Xavi reacts during the UEFA Champions League Group H football match between FC Shakhtar Donetsk and FC Barcelona in Hamburg, northern Germany, on November 7, 2023

Barcelona officially inaugurated its first major crisis with Xavi Hernandez as coach. After a first season where the Spanish League covered up the European embarrassments, Xavi decided that in his second year the team had to play well, to play the football he likes so much, and leave aside the 1-0.   

But Barcelona's level is not good enough to go out in Europe and win. Someone did not see it or did not want to see it when some signings were closed. The last few games show this low quality with the defeat in El Clasico or the miraculous victory in San Sebastian where Barca were dominated.

In Hamburg, home to Shakhtar in the Champions League due to the war between Russia and Ukraine, the team that Xavi fielded did not appear until almost the 60th minute when he changed four players in one go. Romeu, Ferran Torres, Marcos Alonso and Raphina do not have the quality to play for Barça or, at least, Xavi has not been able to integrate them into the squad to show the potential of other seasons, as is the case with Alonso.   

Sikan's goal exposed the controversial Ferran Torres who came to cover the cross almost four metres from the striker. The ball found its way to the Ukrainian striker who beat Christensen to score the only goal of the game just before half-time.  

PHOTO/AFP/AXEL HEIMKEN - Los jugadores del Shakhtar Donetsk celebran el primer gol del delantero ucraniano Danylo Sikan (2R) durante el partido de fútbol del Grupo H de la UEFA Champions League entre el FC Shakhtar Donetsk y el FC Barcelona en Hamburgo, norte de Alemania, el 7 de noviembre de 2023
PHOTO/AFP/AXEL HEIMKEN - Shakhtar Donetsk players celebrate the first goal by Ukrainian striker Danylo Sikan (2R) during the UEFA Champions League Group H football match between FC Shakhtar Donetsk and FC Barcelona in Hamburg, northern Germany, on November 7, 2023

Lewandowski has exhausted his goalscoring potential at Barça. In the Champions League he again had a poor game, partly due to the lack of balls into the box that he usually finishes like nobody else. The only one who can do the job is Gündogan, but he is too lonely in midfield. Gavi is used to defensive duties and Oriol is no Busquets.

Georgian Gocholeishvili attacked Barça's weakest full-back. Neither Alonso, Ferran nor Balde were able to keep up with him. Xavi did not know how to stop the bleeding and devoted his changes to pointing the finger at the culprits rather than fixing the mess.  

The final minutes served to prove Gündogan right about the attitude of his team-mates and dismantle the winning paraphernalia with which Xavi imbues his team no matter what. Since that Super Cup in Arabia when they lost to Real Madrid, the squad has been lost in false praise of supposedly good play when they lose and looking at the result when they win... and thank you. The German's words did not sit well in the dressing room, but they are the unmistakable sign that Xavi is not Guardiola and that his showcase could fall at any moment because, it is fair to say, the club is not living its best economic moment either.   

PHOTO/AFP/AXEL HEIMKEN - El centrocampista alemán del Barcelona Ilkay Gundogan observa durante el partido de fútbol del Grupo H de la UEFA Champions League entre el FC Shakhtar Donetsk y el FC Barcelona en Hamburgo, norte de Alemania, el 7 de noviembre de 2023
PHOTO/AFP/AXEL HEIMKEN - Barcelona's German midfielder Ilkay Gundogan looks on during the UEFA Champions League Group H football match between FC Shakhtar Donetsk and FC Barcelona in Hamburg, northern Germany, on November 7, 2023

Group H is left with Barça and Porto tied on 9 points, but now Shakhtar have 6 points to Antwerp's zero points. Playing at home against the Portuguese team is good news, but the trip to Antwerp to visit the Cinderella of the group is not, right now, the best news for Xavi's team.   

Barça's seams are coming apart again where they have more patches, in the Champions League. Xavi worsens Koeman's numbers with 42% of defeats in Europe compared to 36% of his predecessor. A squad that has neither the quality nor the experience for this competition and that is still incapable of reaching the last 16 three years later.

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