Five Reasons Barcelona relinquished the La Liga title to Real Madrid

The title defence for Barcelona under Xavi Hernandez has officially fallen short, with Real Madrid winning La Liga for a record 36th time.

Barcelona had an exceptional 2022/23 season as they managed to go all the way in La Liga without much trouble. They had a rock-solid defence, a midfield with a mix of youth and experience and an attack where multiple players were contributing.

It was a great triumph under the guidance of Xavi Hernandez, and the fans were expecting something similar in the 2023/24 season. But, unfortunately, the Catalan giants have struggled to reach the levels they did last term.

While there are still four games to go in the season, Barcelona’s defeat to Girona on Saturday handed Real Madrid their 36th league title as they now have a 13-point lead at the top. The Hard Tackle now closely examines the key reasons behind Barcelona’s failure to retain the league title.

A poor defensive display

Barcelona’s triumph in the 2022/23 season was based on their exceptional defensive record. They had one of the best defensive records across Europe last term. But things have been a lot different this time around.

While the Blaugrana did not sell any of their defensive stars, the individual performances have surely gone downhill. Jules Kounde and Ronald Araujo have not been able to reach the levels they did last season. Both of them have made major errors, which have cost them during the ongoing term.

Joao Cancelo’s arrival on loan was a boost for Barcelona, and the Portuguese international has surely played his part. In addition, the rise of Pau Cubarsí is the best thing that has happened amidst their defensive crisis.

The outgoing champions have conceded 43 goals in the league so far. They rank ninth for most goals conceded in the season. That is one of their worst records in the 21st century. Barcelona have not been this vulnerable at the back since the 2012/13 season. The biggest problem is that they went from being the best defence in Spain to one of the worst in a season’s time.

Absence of a world-class defensive midfielder

While Sergio Busquets was at the club, Barcelona never really had to worry about the defensive midfield role. The former Spanish international was amongst the best the game has ever seen in his position. He used to control the tempo of the game and marshal the troops effortlessly.

The 35-year-old decided to end his stint at Barcelona last summer and due to their financial crisis, the Blaugrana could not go in and sign a world-class replacement. Oriol Romeu came in to help cope with Busquets’s absence, but he has not been able to produce the goods.

While Frenkie de Jong and Ilkay Gundogan have been used in that role, that is not their best position, and they have not been as effective. Xavi has used Andreas Christensen, a centre-back, in that role, and the Dane has surely put in a few impressive performances. But the fact that Barcelona do not have a reliable defensive midfielder has caused a lot of problems for them defensively.

Pedri & Gavi’s struggle with injuries

Pedri and Gavi both played a key role in Barcelona’s La Liga triumph last season. Xavi depended on the young duo to help him control the ball and dominate the opposition last term. But with the duo struggling with injuries this time around, the going has been quite tough for the Catalan giants.

While Pedri did struggle with injuries last season as well, things have gone up a notch this time out as he has missed quite a few games. The 21-year-old has been involved in 30 matches this term. But Xavi has had to manage him because of his injury struggles, and he has been restricted to just over 1,700 minutes of first-team football.

Gavi had featured in 36 of Barcelona’s 38 league games last season. But the youngster’s season ended early this time out because of an ACL tear, and he has been out of action since November. At times in the ongoing season with both Gavi and Pedri unavailable, Xavi’s team has looked short of ideas.

Robert Lewandowski’s inconsistent form in front of the goal

Robert Lewandowski’s arrival was a major boost for Barcelona last season. The Polish international had scored a total of 33 goals in the 2022/23 season, with 23 of those 33 goals coming in La Liga. Every time the Catalan giants needed a goal, he was there.

Things have been a bit different this time around as he has only managed 24 goals with just four games to go. While Lewandowski has 17 goals in the league, there was a period of 14 games in the middle of the season where he only managed to find the back of the net three times. They dropped points in six of those fixtures, which did hurt them in the long run as Real Madrid kept winning.

Losing home and away to the title contenders

While a fixture or two does not define the entire season, winning against those competing for the title surely helps the cause. Real Madrid and Girona emerged as the two major threats to Barcelona’s title defence quite early in the season.

The Blaugrana squared up against Los Blancos for the first team in the season back in October last year, and they faced Girona in November. They were expected to put up a great fight and they surely did. But Barcelona lost both games at home.

The outgoing La Liga champions faced Real Madrid away from home two weeks ago in hopes of keeping the title race alive. But unfortunately, they ended up suffering yet another defeat.

After failing to stop Real Madrid, they had the opportunity to delay Los Blancos’ title celebrations by defeating Girona away from home. But, once again, they ended up suffering a defeat. Both their rivals for the league title completed a double over them, which surely did not help their cause.

There is a lot that needs to change at Barcelona over the summer if they want to get back to their best. They need more depth and will have to make moves in the transfer window to compete with Real Madrid for the league next time out.

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