VALENCIA, Spain, May 10, 2019
(BSS/AFP) – Barcelona’s recovery begins
against Getafe on Sunday but the pain felt from their Champions League
collapse at Anfield is likely to get worse before it gets better.
For Getafe, who stand on the brink
of their own meteoric upset of finishing
in La Liga’s top four, the game at Camp Nou is pivotal but for Barca’s
hurting players, it could feel more like a wake.
“There are going to be some
difficult days ahead, but we have to go again,”
said coach Ernesto Valverde.
A week before, their fans had
roared them off, ecstatic after a 3-0 victory
over Liverpool put them within touching distance of their first European
final since 2015.
When the names of the players,
and coach, are read out before kick-off this
weekend, the reaction will be instructive, pointing to just how much
Tuesday’s 4-0 defeat has spoiled an otherwise excellent season that could yet
end with a domestic double.
“We have to be really
self-critical about what happened,” Luis Suarez said.
“There are a lot of things to evaluate and to think about.
“We have to apologise for our
attitude and realise the criticism is going
to rain down on us now. We’re really upset, we’re hurting a lot. We’re humans
and we feel the pain.”
After Getafe, comes a trip to
Eibar for the last league game before the
Copa del Rey final against Valencia in Seville on May 25.
Win at the Benito Villamarin
and there will be celebrations, history made
too, but nothing now can make amends.
Like 12 months ago, two
trophies will be seen as a failure and, like 12
months ago, there are reports that defeat in the cup final will see Valverde
The way Barcelona respond in
these last three games will not save Valverde
but, however unfairly, it could condemn him.
Any suggestion the players have
stopped believing will enthuse those
anxious for change. “I don’t know how this affects my future,” Valverde said
on Tuesday. “But here we are and the coach has to take responsibility.”
Patience could wear thinner too with those seen to have underperformed.
After they beat Liverpool,
Lionel Messi criticised the fans for their
treatment of Philippe Coutinho, who was whistled off in the second half. But
Messi then was speaking from a position of strength.
Valverde made 11 changes for
the defeat to Celta Vigo last weekend and
could rotate again, sparing his players potential censure from the fans and
offering them a longer period of recuperation.
Getafe could be the
beneficiaries given Barcelona are the biggest obstacle
left between them and the remarkable feat of Champions League qualification.
They play at home to 15th-placed Villarreal on the last day.
A weakened Barca would be a
blow too for Valencia and Sevilla, each three
points behind Getafe, and with time running out.
Valencia’s head-to-head means
they will finish above Getafe if they can
square them on points while Marcelino’s side have winnable games left, at
home to Alaves on Sunday before ending with a trip to struggling Real
Sevilla have to finish ahead of
Getafe on points while also facing a
difficult trip to Atletico Madrid and then in-form Athletic Bilbao.
At the other end, two of the
three relegation spots have been taken by Rayo
Vallecano and Huesca but Girona, Valladolid, Levante, Villarreal and Celta
Vigo could all still finish 18th.
Girona are the current
incumbents but host Levante on Sunday. Valladolid
travel to Rayo, Villarreal are at home to Eibar and Celta are away at Bilbao.
Fixtures (all Sunday 1730 GMT)
Athletic Bilbao v Celta Vigo,
Atletico Madrid v Sevilla, Barcelona v
Getafe, Real Betis v Huesca, Girona v Levante, Rayo Vallecano v Real
Valladolid, Valencia v Alaves, Villarreal v Eibar, Leganes v Espanyol, Real
Sociedad v Real Madrid