Barcelona’s dream on an invincible season hit the buffers in the penultimate game, and the former Three Lions forward feels they won’t get a better chance again
Barcelona slumped to a stunning 5-4 loss to Levante last Sunday, a defeat that ended all hopes of an ‘invincibles’ season. The Spanish champions were expected to come out unscathed even without Lionel Messi but were given a strong reality check by the gritty Granotas. The defeat immediately thrust manager Ernesto Valverde in the line of fire as he opted to rest the Argentine ace in favor of an inconsequential mid-week friendly to South African champions Mamelodi Sundowns.
Now, football pundit and former Manchester United and England international Terry Gibson has come out in more criticism of several questionable decisions by the manager. “If you’re going to go to week 37 with that record in mind, and then play that team, and leave out Messi, who’s not even on the bench and didn’t travel, I don’t understand.
“You’ve got Sergi Roberto injured, Samuel Umtiti injured, do you then need to make further changes in the back four? It was a mystery why Valverde made so many changes.”
Barcelona looked to have the unbeaten record in the bag after holding Real Madrid, the last genuine challenge in their way to the ‘invincible’ status, to a draw. They then romped to a facile 5-1 demolition of Villarreal in the next game, and everything seemed to be perfectly set-up for the Catalans to cap off a historic, undefeated La Liga campaign.
Then the debacle at Levante happened and all hopes were cruelly crushed. And Gibson feels they may not get a better shot at an unbeaten campaign again. “I can’t see them getting any closer [to going a season unbeaten]. It wasn’t like that had to play Real Madrid or any of the other big teams in their final two games.
“It was a unique chance to do something historic, and their team selection, attitude, and the performance of Levante were the reasons it came to an end.”
There’s simply no escaping the flak landed at Valverde’s feet after this. It was almost in the bag; the first ever ‘invincible’ team in La Liga beckoned. And he then shot at his own foot with the selections. It’s unforgivable, especially for all the disgruntled Barcelona fans.