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Opinion: Barcelona’s lack of a plan B has killed their season stone dead before Christmas

Against Juventus on Tuesday night, Barcelona once again reverted to type under Ronald Koeman.

Despite Lionel Messi’s best efforts, the lack of hunger and desire from his team-mates and subsequent dilly-dallying on the touchline from his coach, eventually saw Barca lose a Champions League group game at home for the first time since 2009 against Rubin Kazan.

That was the club’s fifth defeat in 16 games in all competitions in 2020/21, an unheard of tally for the Catalans and one which would almost certainly see the manager sacked in any other season.

The abject failure to introduce a plan B against the bianconeri ensured that it was they who topped the group after a 3-0 win, and it means that Barca could now be drawn against the likes of Dortmund, Man City, Chelsea, Liverpool or Bayern Munich in the first knock-out round.

The way in which they’re playing, Barca couldn’t fight their way out of a paper bag, and you have to fear for them again against any of those teams above.

A repeat of the 8-2 defeat isn’t on the cards, but they’ll almost certainly be on the end of another humbling defeat if Koeman doesn’t switch things up.

His bloodymindedness in keeping Riqui Puig on the bench for the most part against Juve makes little sense. He’s one of the squad’s most creative players, as he showed within minutes of coming on.

What the result does do of course is bring into sharp focus that Barca’s season is, realistically, over before the Christmas break.

No team has ever come back in La Liga from 12 points behind the leaders and only a miracle will see them win he Champions League. If they’re unable to bag the Copa del Rey, which appears unlikely at this stage, they’ll end a second season without silverware.

In the Lionel Messi era, that’s simply not good enough.

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