Spanish football expert Graham Hunter has his say on Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Sevilla’s 2022/23 Champions League struggles.
The reason that Spain have been the dominant footballing force in the world over the last 20 years is this touch and go, passing football which is far less robust, far less intense than in the Premier League, the Bundesliga particularly and Serie A too.
Spanish teams don’t play this ebb and flow, back and forward football, so when you put a magnifying glass on this Champions League when matches are played within a week of each other when normally there is a three-week rest, it’s a concertina Champions League which has left the delicate flowers who play better football a little less able to respond.
Look at the middle part of each group where there was just one week between the fixtures…
Sevilla, back to back against Borussia Dortmund, one point only. Barcelona, back-to-back against Inter Milan, one point. Again with Atletico Madrid, back to back against Club Brugge, one point only – it shouldn’t have happened, but it did.
They just couldn’t keep up!
Positive things. Absolutely, without question, positive things. Listen, Xavi’s coaching teeth are being cut; this is his first big job, his first full season.
There was an avalanche of new players, which many people objected to, during the summer and that takes time to settle.
If you paid attention to the game away in the Czech Republic where they played youngsters and a team who had never performed together, the style of football was completely different without Robert Lewandowski who has been saving them, popping in records amounts of goals.
But the changes you can see are two steps forward and one step back, not the opposite!
It isn’t five-star, typical Barcelona. It isn’t the Xavi team of Pep Guardiola’s coaching with Andres Iniesta, Carlos Puyol, Gerard Pique and Lionel Messi and David Villa, but progress is being made.
I’m not going to say watch out they are going to be European champions next year, but anybody who cares about them, watch the football and ignore the headlines.
Diego Simeone out! He is sitting on the shelf and his sell-by date is long gone.
He has got a fabulous squad, they should have gone through in the Champions League, they should be challenging for the title, but he has lost his grip, he isn’t working as hard and the players are tired of his message.
He has been the best manager in Atleti’s history, but it is now time to kiss and say goodbye rather than look for a sacking. He should say ‘arrivederci’, see you soon mate, see you in four or five years.
Right now, I don’t think he is the right guy for the job anymore!