Things have changed a lot after the international break for FC Barcelona. Los Blaugranas remained unbeaten but in the span of one week, they lost two consecutive fixtures: a 1-2 away loss against Ajax in the Champions League and their first La Liga defeat in a 0-1 final against Athletic Bilbao.
There is no question that the absence of Lionel Messi is hurting the team. His presence is important for the club both on and off the field and with the Argentinean set to return as early as January, the team needs to find a way to replace him.
That doesn’t mean, however, that Barcelona needs to hit the panic button. Performance drops are expected in every team, and it is normal that Barcelona players aren’t used to experience failure because they have won practically everything in recent years. It also needs to be added that Gerardo Martino has been with the squad for only a few months, and there are some things he still needs to implement within the players.
With that being said, there are several players that need to step their game up while Messi is out. Pedro Rodriguez has been underachieving all season long and while Neymar has been solid, he hasn’t produced as expected so far. Alexis Sanchez has been stellar on the offensive side of the ball, but the team needs a collective effort to replace Messi.
It is clear that the losses weren’t expected, especially the one against Bilbao where the team simply didn’t have answers to defeat a lesser side. With the quality of players they have on the squad, however, Los Blaugranas should be able to turn things around sooner rather than later.