It has been evident for months that Barcelona are a club in crisis.
The first major sign that the Blaugrana were in serious trouble came when their dire financial plight made it impossible for them to offer a new contract to Lionel Messi over the summer – resulting in the six-time Ballon d’Or winner departing for Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer.
Having lost their record goalscorer, Barca look a shadow of their former selves on the pitch. Nowhere has this been more evident than in the Champions League, where Ronald Koeman’s side have tamely fallen to a pair of 3-0 defeats in their opening two group games.
Despite their struggles, a favourable run of fixtures in La Liga allowed Barca to make it through the first six league matches of the new season. without tasting defeat.
Granted, their performances were nothing to write home about – and draws with the likes of Cadiz and Granada will never be cause for celebration atthe Camp Nou – but at least they had taken something away from each of their domestic outings.
That run, however, came to a shuddering halt against Atletico Madrid on Saturday evening as Diego Simone’s men outclassed Barca at Estadio Wanda Metropolitano. First half goals from Thomas Lemar and former Barcelona man Luis Suarez secured the points for the reigning champions in a 2-0 victory.
“We could play for three hours and still not score,” admitted the dejected 34-year-old.
When Suarez doubled the hosts’ lead on the stroke of half-time, Pique was caught on camera arguing with captain Sergio Busquets following his failure to track Joao Felix in the build-up to the goal.
Pique attempted to play down the spat, but that the club’s two most experienced men would have such a public row in full view of the world says a lot about the fragility of Barcelona at present.
“We had spoken about when [Thomas] Lemar lays the ball off and Joao Felix runs forward they outnumber you and someone has to follow him. But this is the nervousness that comes in these situations,” reasoned Pique.
“This is the result we didn’t want but we have to rest now in the break and come back strong. We were brave but they scored from very little. All we can do is to keep fighting. The two goals are very similar in that they come at us with numerical superiority.
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“We don’t have just one problem. Anyone can see what we are missing. These are hard times but the spirit in the dressing room is good and there is a lot of desire to turn this around,” he insisted.
What Pique refused to comment on, though, is whether he expects boss Koeman to still be a part of that rebuilding process after the upcoming international break.
Many believed that the Dutchman’s fate was already sealed prior to Saturday’s game – and Barca’s underwhelming effort in the match itself will have done nothing to change that.
“The players can’t do anything about all the noise around the coach and the president,” concluded Pique bluntly.
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