Gerard Piqué is the only right-handed center in Barcelona's squad, made by Éric Abidal and Ramon Planes. An unprecedented situation for the Catalan center, as unprecedented as the fact of having played 11 consecutive LaLiga matches. He has no alternative Pique, nor does he Ernesto Valverde which has the new Lenglet-today, teammate of 3 behind and injured Umtiti and Vermaelen. A couple of centers without shooting, is added an improvised right-back, as Sergi Roberto, and a left as Jordi Alba, which does not stand out precisely for being a rock in defense, but intractable in attack (total seven assists in the season) , still invisible in the eyes of the new coach of Spain, Luis Enrique.
Out of tune, the defense of Barcelona is suffering as few times in the new century. Barça has an average of goals conceded of 1.27 per game. Since the 2000-2001 season, when Serra Ferrer and then Rexach were in the bench, the Barça team did not have a superior average of so many received. Then, between Reina (25), Dutruel (16) and Arnau (nine) went to look for the ball in 57 opportunities to the net of the goal of Barcelona, with an average of goals conceded by match of 1.5. Since that season, Barcelona have received more than one goal per game in four campaigns: 2002-2003 (1.23), when Van Gaal, De la Cruz and Antic passed through the Camp Nou; the 2007-2008 (1,13), with Rijkaard; 2012-2013 (1.05), with Tito Vilanova; and the current one.
"It can not be that we receive goals in all matches, at the minimum we score, we are aware of that, we have to improve," complained Leo Messi in October. "Fragility in defense?", We have to look for balance ", clarified, then, Valverde. In recent games, Barcelona seemed to show signs of strength, especially in the duel in the Champions League against Inter (2-0), but this Saturday he suffered again in the last line against Rayo, the third last in the table. In fact, the three teams that are in the relegation zone scored two goals for Barça: Huesca (8-2), Leganés (2-1) and Rayo (2-3).
"While we scored three goals we are not bad, we would all like to keep a clean sheet," said Valverde in Vallecas. Ter Stegen (four) and Cillessen (one) have not received so many in five games so far this season: Alavés (3-0), Valladolid (0-1), PSV (4-0), Inter (2-) 0) and the Cultural Leonesa (0-1). "We have to be ready not to repeat mistakes, but we must also highlight the reaction of the team," said Rakitic.
Coutinho and Dembélé
"I have the feeling that in the last few matches we have improved in defense, we have found the balance we were looking for," analyzed Valverde. Injured Messi, Barcelona had recovered a more aggressive version in the pressure, absent against Rayo in Vallecas. Rafinha was deflating, Coutinho never appeared and Dembélé does not have the norm to help in the rear. Both the French (11 losses and two balls recovered in 38 minutes) and the Brazilian (13 and two in 67) do not help the reliability of Barça in defense.
When Barcelona went without Neymar last summer, Valverde lost the offensive power of the South American trident, but in return he gained strength in defense. In the first 29 days of the 2017-2018 season, the Azulgrana squad had received 16 goals: 0.55 on average. A security that could not maintain in the closing of LaLiga: 13 targets fitted in nine duels (1.44). A gap similar to this season.
Account, at least, with good news Valverde. Umtiti has started working with the group. A relief for the coach and for Piqué, present in all duels, also in the two areas like Saturday against Rayo.