Barcelona B are obviously going through a rough patch. For yet another week, Gerard López’s men have failed to win, extending their winless (and also scoreless) streak to three matches. The Blaugranas at least got a point from their visit to Atlético Levante, after two successive defeats that nobody really saw coming. As Gerard López correctly pointed out in the post-match press conference, neither team deserved to win on Sunday.
The coach though did set up his side in order to go for the win. With his undisputed starters in place at the back (J. Suárez, Palencia, Marlon, Martínez, Moi), in midfield (Fali, Aleñà) and up front (Perea, Romera), Gerard also aimed to give a twist to his lineup. Ignacio Abeledo, whose signing caused quite a stir given the player’s tumultuous final months at Betis, was handed his first start on the left wing. Despite of the manager’s plans though, the game went in the direction the visitors didn’t want it to go. The hosts clearly set themselves up to avoid defeat, and the game’s quality suffered as a result. The Blaugranas build-up seemed laboured and agonisingly slow in the first half, during which the visitors didn’t manage a single shot on goal. The hosts, on their part, did marginally better, managing three shots on target.
The Buñol-based side defended well, orderly and seemed to fancy their chances against a side that has been searching for its lost best version for weeks now. Atlético Levante, second from bottom, saw nothing to lose in trying to play some football against a slow and unimaginative Blaugrana side. Despite of the hosts’ best efforts to build up play, Barcelona B’s defence, strangely enough, responded well. This was mainly due to the leadership of captain Sergi Palencia, who, from the right back position, did justice to the captain’s armband by directing his teammates into the right sort of actions.
After a rather uneventful first half, the second half started with Atlético Levante on top. Just five minutes into the second period, José Aurelio Suárez had to do what he has to do once in every match. The Gijón-born keeper added yet another world class save to his collection to tip the ball onto the crossbar and prevent worse things for his team. Levante’s chances didn’t serve to wake Barça B up, with the Catalans continuing to play a slow game. Romera and Marlon both had decent chances from set pieces, but their finishes left a lot to be desired. Kaptoum, Sarsanedas and Alfaro came on, but the team improved only marginally.
The match continued to be a mostly boring affair, and viewers only saw the monotony broken by a couple of shots by Alfaro. Apart from the winger’s attempts, Carles Aleñà was also an interesting feature, as the midfielder was the only player in Barcelona’s fluorescent green strip that tried something different. A swallow doesn’t make a summer though, and in the end, the Blaugranas had their goalkeeper to thank for not going home empty handed. In the depths of stoppage time, in a move that exemplified the lack of sharpness Barça B are experiencing lately, the hosts were granted a glorious chance on the counter. After a corner that went horribly wrong in terms of execution, three Levante players rushed forward with just one defender to beat, and Son was given the chance to finish off the move. The forward though was superbly closed down by José Suárez, and ended up sending a shot well over the crossbar.
Speaking after the match, Gerard said that the result was positive was in the sense that it ended a losing run. A valid point by the coach, but really the only positive that can be taken from Sunday’s match is that the team managed to keep its first clean sheet, nine matches into the league season. We are talking about the same team which, during the first month or so, seemed unbeatable, simply because it could get goals anytime and from anyone.
It now seems though that the tide has turned. The same Barcelona B side that averaged three goals per game in the first six games, has now gone three games without scoring, and inevitably, has only taken one point from nine from these matches. It is beyond doubt that the reserves are going through a very rough patch. Only 17th-placed Espanyol B and sixth-placed Valencia Mestalla have matched Barça B’s atrocious form over the past three games. The Blaugranas obviously need to react. They might be fourth right now, but in a league in which fourth and tenth place are separated by a mere three points, in two weeks’ time they could even fall outside the playoff zone. And it’s too early for the promotion dream to become a summer night’s dream.