As Barcelona prepare to host Elche in Wednesday night’s La Liga match, they’ll know a big home win is a pre-requisite.
After failing to dispatch Cadiz, allowing chance after chance to go begging, what could’ve been a six-point gap to leaders, Atletico Madrid, turned into eight.
Still not insurmountable, but it means that, realistically, the Blaugranes can’t afford to drop any more points over the coming weeks.Sevilla are next up at the weekend, followed by a midweek cup appointment against the same opponents – two games that could, theoretically, make or break Barca’s season.
Lose both of those and there’s a strong likelihood that we will see the second successive season where the Catalans don’t win anything.
Win both, particularly if Barca dismantle Elche at Camp Nou, and they still retain an interest in both competitions.
With the Madrid derby to come in La Liga, and Barca also having to face Real Madrid and Atleti, things aren’t quite yet in their hands, but if they can begin to replicate the form they’ve shown since the turn of the year, they’ll certainly be on the coat-tails of those above them.
What Ronald Koeman shouldn’t be relying on, however, is his defence.
Notwithstanding Gerard Pique’s recent return to action, the back four have been shocking at times.
In fact, they’ve only looked anything like a coherent unit when Dest-Mingueza-Araujo-Alba has been the line-up.
Swapping in the likes of Junior Firpo hasn’t worked, Clement Lenglet is enduring his worst period of form since being at the club, including giving away the penalty that allowed Cadiz to leave Camp Nou with a scarcely deserved point, and Samuel Umtiti, frankly, doesn’t deserve to be anywhere near the XI.
So, attack remains Barca’s best form of defence.
The players in midfield and up front have more than enough about them to win against most teams.
Even coming up against the so-called big boys shouldn’t worry the Catalans. They just need the likes of Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele to be firing constantly and consistently.
Once again, Leo Messi is doing his bit, and if he were to score against Elche, he would usurp former team-mate, Luis Suarez, in the Pichichi standings.
It can’t all be left to the Argentinian, however. Even the likes of Frenkie de Jong need to weigh in heavily in the goals for column.
Success is still there for the taking… but how badly do some of Barca’s players want it?