Barcelona suffered yet another upset defeat at the Camp Nou on Sunday night, this time against Rayo Vallecano.
For the first time in club history, the team lost a third consecutive home defeat in the same season, meaning Xavi Hernandez established an unwanted record. The club’s European aspirations were dashed earlier this month when they were defeated at home by Eintracht Frankfurt, followed by a shock home defeat against lowly Cadiz last week in La Liga. The other time the team lost three consecutive home games was under Dutch manager Louis van Gaal at the close of the 1997-98 season and the start of the 1998-99 season.
While they did win a game against Real Sociedad last week – despite being second best for many stretches of the game, which finished in a one-goal triumph – it continues a worrying pattern for the club, which will conclude the season without a trophy.
The Catalan giants have long since lost the league crown, with Real Madrid now needing only one victory from their last five league games to win the title. Barca, on the other hand, may be worried of falling out of the top four and maybe losing a Champions League spot next season, which would be a huge hit to their finances.
Barca is in second place, but tied on points with Sevilla, two points ahead of Atletico Madrid, and six points ahead of Real Betis, who they must face in Seville. While their league position remains solid, their form is a worry, and they still have work to do to ensure a top-four finish with five games remaining.
The setback on Sunday night also maintained a worrying pattern for Barcelona, as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang failed to score. Since making his debut in February, the Gabonese striker has already scored ten goals for Xavi and has been important in his early days at the club.
Aubameyang may have settled in well at his new club, but he has struggled to create an impression during matches at the Camp Nou, which is quite unexpected. Sunday’s blank with Rayo Vallecano was his ninth game for his new team at the stadium, although he has only scored twice in that time.
He scored the game-winning goal against Real Sociedad on Thursday, but he has had a poor run of form. In their Europa League loss to Frankfurt, he failed to make an impact in either leg and was pulled off shortly after the hour mark in the second leg as they sought goals – a scathing indictment of Xavi’s ambitions of being the man to lead his team back into the game.
He was also left out of the starting lineup against Cadiz last week, and he struggled to make an impact as a second-half substitute. Barca’s defeat to Rayo on Sunday was just another example of the team chasing a crucial goal but taking off their top center striker.