Deflated, disjointed and utterly disinterested: Will the real Barça please stand up

Xavi must've come back from Manchester with the wrong Barcelona as this couldn't have been them playing against Almeria tonight.

Barcelona needed a statement win. Xavi needed a statement win. And we needed a statement win. But what we got instead was a team that looked like a shadow of their true self. Of course, being Europe-hungover is a real thing. Following their defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt, for example, Barcelona were beaten 1-0 by Cadiz to really nail home the disappointment. And following up on European victories is also a tough task. In fact, even after the legendary remontada against Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona were too groggy to stand up to Deportivo in the very next fixture, losing 2:1. But how much of an excuse can that really be for a team desperate to win something this season? A team trying to prove a point? A team wanting to be a football force once more?

Fortunately, Xavi’s men still have a decent lead at the top of the table but Real Madrid can never be written off. Even in their darkest hour, they will keep biting and clinging onto that trophy until their last breath. We can be sure of that. But can we back Barcelona up to put up a similar fight in the face of adversity? For all intents and purposes, tonight was supposed to be the night that breaks the title race. And indeed it did, only it has done so in a way opposite to what we were craving.

But, perhaps, as ever, context is important. This was one of Barcelona’s worst games of the season. Maybe not the very worst but surely at least near the top of the list. Individually, the players were disinterested, deflated and acted as if they were playing in second gear. Collectively, the play was disjointed, actions idealess and intensity with which they steamrolled Manchester United in the opening 45 minutes at Old Trafford nonexistent.