Barça’s endless loop as they struggle to break free from the mental rut

Joao Cancelo / Getty Images
Joao Cancelo / Getty Images

Barcelona’s inconsistency has killed them this season.

Barça stuck in a vicious cycle. This is precisely what has been mentally draining Xavi Hernández’s team. Once again at San Mamés, the Blaugranas faced a magnificent opportunity to assert their authority and boost their self-esteem. It wasn’t possible, neither in terms of result nor performance, so in a way, the hopes of the Culés return to square one, a loop that has been constantly repeating throughout this season. Every two or three steps forward are followed by a setback that halts any progress. “We need to make a statement,” lamented Xavi after the draw in Bilbao.

According to Toni Juanmarti of SPORT, this phrase sums up the feeling of a frustrated and somewhat desperate group unable to break free from misfortune and negativity. Despite the team’s efforts and belief, every now and then, they receive a blow that resets the levels of hope and brings Barcelona back to a situation with many questions and few answers. Before the match in San Mamés, there was much talk that, in case of victory, the Catalan side would likely reach the best moment of the season since those distant thrashings in September against Betis and Antwerp. After Real Madrid’s stumble in Valencia, securing three points against Athletic would have confirmed Barcelona’s good form and reopened the battle for La Liga. And all this with Napoli on the horizon. But once again, Barcelona slipped on the diving board just before a big leap. The same old script throughout this season.

In the first leg of El Clásico, Barcelona could have caught up with Real Madrid at the top of the table. After a very good first 60 minutes, Xavi’s men ended up losing. Probably undeservedly, but what could have been a morale boost turned into a bitter pill. The Whites opened up a gap.

Weeks later, the Blaugranas regrouped and sought resurrection in their own ‘big week’. Barcelona defeated Atlético and faced Girona at Montjuïc. Míchel’s team won 2-4 and the Blaugrana team found themselves once again immersed in a sea of doubts after the vulnerability shown against Girona. But if there’s one thing the Blaugrana squad does, it’s to rise again and again. The team won away against Betis in the 90th minute and faced the cup clash against Athletic as a final. Real Madrid was out of the cup competition, so reaching the ‘semis’ would exponentially increase the title chances. Once again, the day meant to be a turning point turned into a nightmare. Barcelona fell in extra time, and just three days later, another defeat against Villarreal would announce Xavi’s departure at the end of the season.

The Catalan team kept pushing, especially clinging to their chances of staying alive in the Champions League for as long as possible. The good momentum and the good performance in Naples raised hopes. Also, Real Madrid’s draw in Valencia. The ‘final’ in Bilbao was an ideal moment to boost the excitement of the Barcelona fans.

In Saudi Arabia, just as it happened the previous season, the Spanish Super Cup was seen as a magnificent opportunity to make a turning point. It was, but in a negative way. Real Madrid dominated Barcelona in the final, and the Blaugrana project was severely shaken.