A out-of-sync team of world-class players
While Barcelona has failed to impress as a team throughout the 2019/20 season, it is still a team filled with world-class players. Their attack can at times be devastatingly lethal. While Luis Suarez may be past his prime and Antoine Griezmann may need more to time to settle in on the Catalan team, they are both great players on their day. Orchestrating it all is, of course Lionel Messi, who is still on top of his game and the best player in the world.
Frenkie de Jong is a fantastic midfielder and was great against Napoli. Players such as Ivan Rakitic and Gerard Pique seem to be long past their prime, but they are also experienced veterans who are used to knockout Champions League games.
In a single knockout game, individual brilliance matters more than in any other game. Messi is key to Barca’s attack, yes, but there are many game-winners amongst his teammates. Barcelona is a team that has been out of sync most of the season, but if they are on top of their game, they can beat any team in a 90-minute game.
Frenkie De Jong’s game by numbers vs. Napoli:— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) August 8, 2020
100% take-ons completed
94% final third passes completed
92% pass accuracy
4 ball recoveries
2 fouls suffered
1 chance created
Ran the show in midfield. #UCL pic.twitter.com/lMDNssafbH
Defense remains Barcelona’s Achilles’ heel
Barcelona’s Achilles heel is their shaky defense. Conceding 13 goals more than Real Madrid in the league, Barcelona’s defense has consistently struggled during the 2019/20 season.
While Napoli did not offer much threat, a team such as Bayern will. Barcelona’s center-back duo, Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet, can be exploited. Napoli often found runs behind the high-pressing defensive line and often came close to breaking free. Bayern, with their excellent attack, will have more opportunities and Barcelona will have to modify how they defend.
Lastly, it is important to note that Barcelona missed their deep-lying playmaker Sergio Busquets against Napoli due to a suspension. He makes the team better in terms of control and defensive attributes.
Questions surrounding Quique Setien’s abilities
It is a harsh question, but one that I believe must be asked. Quique Setien is 61 years old and has been a football manager since taking over his home-town team Racing Santander in 2001. He has experience as a head coach, much more than Hansi Flick, yet it is debatable whether he is a manager meant for the highest level of world football.
Although Setien has found success at most of the clubs he has managed, he has failed to make an immediate impact at Barcelona. Since Setien took over in January, Barcelona has won only two thirds of their games in the league, and there are rumors that the players have turned against him on account of his inconsistent tactical choices. Facing Hansi Flick, the man who has revived Bayern Munich, the Santander-native will face a serious challenge before he can tactically outsmart the Bayern coach.