June 3, 2023

Winning any silverware is never a foregone conclusion.

Gone are the days when the game was won when Barcelona were lining up for the kick-off at the start of games too.

It’s long since the blaugranes have been able to intimidate their opposition without even kicking a ball.

Recent form might have suggested otherwise, but Eintracht Frankfurt were never going to be overawed, particularly in front of such a partisan home crowd.

The Catalans will potentially look to the relatively early withdrawal of Gerard Pique as a major reason why they were so sloppy in Thursday night’s first leg.

However, that would be doing their German hosts a disservice.

Not until the double substitution on the hour mark did Barca look anything like their old selves. In patches they were good but not great.

Dembele and De Jong certainly appeared to turn the tide in a game that could’ve seen the home side out of sight long before Ferran Torres’ expertly-crafted equaliser.

Xavi deserves credit for making the changes at the right time, but maybe there’s an argument that he was a little too complacent in his original selection.

For the first 60 minutes, there was only one winner in this tie and it wasn’t the visitors.

Pique’s injury was unfortunate but not enough to derail his side from going about their business.

If we’re going to laud Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang when he’s doing the business, then he should be subject to scrutiny when he’s, frankly, anonymous.

The threat that the Gabonese posed was non-existent, ditto Adama Traore.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going, and far too many Barca stars were meek on the night.

Thankfully for all concerned with the Camp Nou outfit, they remain in the box seat to qualify to the semi-final, and one has to contend that the blaugranes can’t possibly play as badly for long periods again.

At a packed Camp Nou, Frankfurt have to come out and play, and that should suit the Catalans.

They showed that they’re certainly capable of standing toe to toe with Xavi’s warriors, but it’s debatable that they’ll have enough about them to cause a shock to send the favourites tumbling out of the competition.

In defence particularly, Xavi has work to do, and it’s precisely in these matches where he’ll earn his corn and cement his reputation.

If Barca progress, the majority of this performance will be forgotten and it will even be seen as a decent result, but if not, the first hour in Germany should be used as an educational tool for future ‘what not to do’ videos.

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