One of the most alarming stats of the week for Barcelona fans was raised by the Spanish press after their Champions League first leg defeat to AC Milan. It pointed out that only one pass was played by Lionel Messi to David Villa throughout the ninety minutes.
Last night they looked tired as Real Madrid ran rings around them to progress to the Copa del Rey final. Messi is human it appears and susceptible to the same strains on the body as anyone else, despite his pre match claims to the contrary. Villa remained on the bench until the fifty-ninth minute. Can it be that the best club side in recent years is experiencing Chelsea style internal rumblings of discontent?
It certainly wouldn’t be a surprise considering they have been without coach Tito Vilanova, receiving treatment for cancer in New York since January 19th. There is a distinct lack of discipline and defensive cohesion about Barca at the moment. Messi and Villa seem on different wavelengths and Carlos Puyol needs to rediscover his on-field leadership qualities because as a unit they lack direction.
They will deny it but star midfielder Cesc Fabrigas gave the ultimate admission of guilt ala Chelsea when he played the fatigue card when questioned on his side’s defeat to Milan:
"We were not at our best at all, I think we paid a bit physically. We had a few players who were playing at their limit.
Such words are the beginning of a slippery slope for teams attempting to disguise a crisis. Of course, it’s much too early to suggest that, and yet they will no doubt welcome back Vilanova with open arms, as they are starting to look like a ship without a rudder.