Manager Ernesto Valverde will have the finger pointed at him first. When president Josep Bartomeu said there ‘will be time for a profound reflection’ after the game, you sensed he could even be talking about the coach.
He has only just signed a new deal, but his prints are on this defeat just as they were on last year’s 3-0 loss to Roma. He was almost moved on after that.
Even his staunchest supporter in Mundo Deportivo questioned his late changes and the decision to take off Arturo Vidal. After tempers have calmed he will probably survive but these big defeats take the shine off of two straight titles. The failure also means Barcelona lose out on €15million in UEFA prize money.
The players will be next in the firing line. The usual suspects first. Marca’s rating of Philippe Coutinho said ‘he needs more impetus, more character, not hot-blooded enough’.
Sergi Roberto’s weaknesses were also laid bare again. He was walking away from that fateful corner with his back to the ball, not that he was the only player guilty during what one commentator called a ‘Marx brothers set-piece’.
There was a sense that Barcelona had also been let down by some of their most reliable players. Jordi Alba was awful, at fault for two goals and ineffective in attack. ‘A disaster’ declared Diario AS. In most verdicts only Vidal, for his attitude, avoided the criticism.
The board will be held to account too. The club spent close to €300m on Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele, yet where were they when they were most needed? Dembele missed what would have been the 4-0 in the first leg and pulled a hamstring at the weekend inside two minutes of a meaningless league match. He remains completely unreliable.
Philippe Coutinho has been one of the players most heavily criticised following the defeat.
Coutinho was on the pitch but, as at the Nou Camp, the game passed him by. He will either learn how to play the Andres Iniesta midfield role or he he will have to be edged out, because he has shown on the big stage this season that as the third striker he cannot fill Neymar’s boots.
The club will be urged to get their B-team back into Spain’s second division. They are currently kicking around in the third tier from where it is very difficult for players to springboard into the first team.
‘The attitude was wrong’ said Luis Suarez post-game. That underlined the sense that the team lacks spirit for these big away nights. There is a belief that only comes from players who have come up through the youth team.
In the shorter term the antidote to the depression that will now inevitably descend even if they beat Valencia in the Copa del Rey could be a reactivation of operation Griezmann.