On 19 December, FC Barcelona announced that coach Tito Vilanova was suffering from cancer. The coach has since been receiving Chemotherapy in New York, and has been on a leave of absence from the club.
Barcelona management handed the reigns to Jordi Roura, Tito’s number two. Though he has attempted to continue Barcelona’s recent legacy of success, he has proved unable to do so.
Before Tito Vilanova left, Barcelona were 23-2-2 in all competitions. Though their defence was questionable, they were in the midst of the best ever start to a La Liga campaign and still alive in all cup competitions.
Since Roura was placed in charge, Barcelona have won only nine of 15 games, and lost three of those other six. Two of these losses have come in crucial cup ties - against Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey and AC Milan in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 encounter.
Much of this is down to Roura’s unwillingness to take risks. Lack of squad rotation has resulted in players becoming fatigued, not to mention the squad he has been choosing has its flaws.
Starting Fabregas in the middle pushes Iniesta out to the wing, where he is noticeably less effective and drifts toward the middle. With Messi also coming back to collect the ball, Pedro is left as the only true winger, meaning a highly congested center of the field.
This has made it easy for teams, such as Madrid and Milan, to nullify Barcelona’s offensive threat, and capitalise on their lackluster defence.
Even in games where the finishing of Villa or pace of Tello would have been of great benefit to a Barcelona team lacking ideas, Roura has often waited too long to introduce new players, not giving them the needed time to make an impact.
Despite Tello’s game changing impact against Sevilla in their last league game, where Barcelona turned around a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 win after the winger’s introduction, Roura waited until Barcelona were in need of four goals to sub in the youngster, giving him little chance to make a true impact against Los Blancos on Tuesday night.
Barcelona will need something special at the Camp Nou to make it to the quarter-finals of the champions league, and unless there is a shift in philosophy by Roura, the Catalans are unlikely produce such a performance to overcome a two-goal defecit.
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