Champions League Debate: Are Barcelona Lacking The Finishing Touch?

The Blaugrana have their first win and first goals on the board but there was something lacking in their 2-0 win over Dynamo Kiev....

Barcelona pummelled in 105 goals in La Liga and 32 in the Champions League proper last term. So far this season on the domestic front, they have already netted 16 times in the opening five round, well in keeping of their average of three goals per game.

But in Europe’s premier club competition, they are finding defences and the opposition a little tougher to crack. And the 2-0 win over Dynamo Kiev, albeit elegant and predictably dominant, is a prime example.

Unlike the 0-0 draw at Inter on opening day two weeks ago when they had only a small handful of clear-cut chances, Pep Guardiola’s artists had almost a dozen shots on goal against the Ukrainians after rattling in close to 30 shots in total. Yet, they only managed to put two into the back of the net.

Granted, the Dynamo goalkeeper, Oleksander Shovkovski had a major role to play in preventing the Catalan behemoths from running riot, pulling off a number of sensational saves. But without Thierry Henry and Samuel Eto’o, Barcelona look as though they are having trouble finding the target against quality opponents.

Make no mistakes, Andres Iniesta, deputising for the injured Henry, looked as sharp and deadly as ever, but he’s not the kind of player who has much interest spending his time inside the box infront of the rival’s goalmouth. He’s a playmaker who relishes picking the ball up from deep and galloping past defenders while exchanging cheeky one-two’s with his team-mates.   

As for Eto’o’s successor, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, he has yet to get off the mark for his new club in this season’s Champions League. He was lacklustre against his old club, Inter a fortnight ago, and although he set up Pedro for the second goal against Dynamo, he failed to take any of his chances, unlike in La Liga where he has been quite prolific.

The likes of Xavi, Dani Alves, Seydou Keita are always capable of scoring the odd screamer from distance, while Gerard Pique has that penchant of netting from set-pieces. However, the bulk of the goalscoring duties lie with Lionel Messi and that’s where the Blaugrana run the risk of jeopardising their chances of becoming the first ever club to successfully defend the Champions League throne.

‘El Mesias’ was again devastatingly breathtaking against the Ukrainians, buzzing all over the pitch, running at players and drawing out defenders but it’s only a matter of time before he, too, is neutralised by the opposition. 

Inter and Chelsea have already proven that you can subdue the Barca attacking juggernaut, if you don’t so much mind being roundly criticised by all of Europe for putting ten men and the team bus behind the ball.

Guardiola has so far only ever relied on the 4-3-3 formation and he has only one way of playing football: going forward. After their heroics last term, their future opponents will be smarter now and they will be aware that nothing good can come out from fighting fire with fire with the Catalans, as tempting as it may be.

Pep can’t keep depending on his one-track attacking philosophies and he can’t keep counting on Messi. While credit must go to him for continually playing eye-candy football even though it makes his rivals become even more defensive-minded, he has to come up with a Plan B: something minimal and straightforward that involves simply getting the job done.

KS Leong,