Ernesto Valverde’s Barcelona seems to be running away with the league title of 2017/18 after opening up a four-point lead at the top of the La Liga table. Defending champions Real Madrid trail the Blaugrana by a massive margin of eight points and the Los Blancos have struggled to beat teams this season, particularly at home. Madrid has suffered embarrassing defeats against the likes of Girona and Real Betis this season, and Barcelona has taken full advantage of that.
The Camp Nou outfit are marching towards what would be their 25th league title, however, they have relied heavily on the brilliance of their talisman Lionel Messi so far. The likes of Luis Suarez and Andres Iniesta have struggled to replicate their usual match-winning performances this season, which has increased the pressure on the shoulders of Messi. We take a look at three most disappointing players for Barcelona this season.
1) Luiz Suarez
The Uruguayan goal machine has struggled to find the back of the net regularly this season, having managed only five goals and three assists in all competitions so far. After the departure of Neymar, and the injury to Ousmane Dembele, both Suarez and Messi had added responsibility on their shoulders, but the 30-year-old striker has endured a dip in form off-late.
Being the kind of goal poacher he has been in the past, much was expected from Suarez, but he has failed to live up to those expectations this season. Paco Alcacer has impressed in the limited opportunities he has had, which has further added pressure on the Uruguayan to step up his game. His man of the match performance against Leganes must have helped his confidence wherein he contributed two goals.
2) Andres Iniesta
Suarez’s performances sure have let Barcelona fans down, but what has been more painful is to witness Iniesta struggling. The veteran midfielder has scored just one goal this season and has laid on just a single assist which came way back in September in a 3-0 win against Juventus.
The Spaniard recently signed his contract extension with the Catalans, which was termed as a ‘lifetime’ agreement between the player and the club. However, at 33 years of age, Iniesta’s game won’t be as magical as it was in his younger years. Like all great players, Iniesta will have to retire one day and if his performances this season are anything to go by, that time is nearing for the capitán.
3) Ivan Rakitic
The Croatian midfielder has come under scrutiny this season due to his tendency of giving away possession cheaply. Rakitic has looked out of sorts this year, and despite providing three assists and a solitary goal to the Catalans, he has been struggling to stamp his authority in the center of the park.
The 29-year-old, former Sevilla man boasts a passing accuracy of almost 90% but still has not been as effective as he has been in the past. Often dubbed as the player who will have to move on if Barcelona succeeds in their pursuit of Philippe Coutinho, Rakitic has little time to prove his worth to the Blaugrana.
Barcelona as a team has been very efficient so far- the kind of football Valverde has brought to the Camp Nou might not be too attractive but it sure has been effective. The struggles of Suarez, Iniesta, and Rakitic has hurt the Catalans dearly. The Blaugrana are reportedly ready to sacrifice Rakitic to make way for Philippe Coutinho, while both Suarez and Iniesta need to stop resting on their laurels from the past and start contributing to the team and soon.