It sounds like a joke, but the competition here isn’t to see which team is in better shape and is favourite for a decisive match like this one, but to see if either of the two teams (and coaches) is out of the ICU or has already received the last rites.

Benítez will welcome to Balaídos an FC Barcelona team in which the fans have lost almost all hope and there is a strong disconnection with the team. And this may ring a bell.

Coach and fans don’t go hand in hand:

The manner of their elimination from the King’s Cup did a lot of damage to the little credit the Celeste fans gave the Madrid coach. A large part of the Celeste fans defended Benítez at the start of the season with worse results than the current one (the team beat Osasuna 3-0 just two matchdays ago).

The reason? The team had a much more daring approach and, even if they were failing in the penalty area and were being wronged by refereeing decisions, the fans identified with the more attacking style that has been established in Vigo for decades.

In 2024, Celta has conceded 12 goals in nine games, an acceptable figure for a team at the bottom of the table, compared to the 16 they have scored (eight in three King’s Cup games, half of them against a second division side like Amorebieta).

We are talking about a team that doesn’t perform when they play to make little happen, they don’t work in minimal matches. Although Unai Núñez is the player with the most interceptions in the competition and Starfelt one of the most clearances per game, this is explained by the number of attempts they make, not because Vigo’s defence is at a high level and wins most of their duels.

Benítez is sticking to his minimum plans and refusing to use all the attacking talent at his disposal (Aspas, Larsen, Douvikas, Allende…), something the club’s supporters refuse to put up with any longer. The biggest problem? Despite the distance between coach and fans, the club’s hands and feet are tied, as firing Benítez would limit the sporting direction of the coming years.

Xavi isn’t much better:

FC Barcelona have fallen out of the fight for LaLiga and the good news is the emergence of the new generations, with a Lamine Yamal called to be a world star and a Pau Cubarsí who is considered the best defender seen at La Masía in many years.

In a few days, the Champions League arrives and the waters may calm down if they manage to eliminate Napoli, who are in a situation that is no better than that of the culé club either.

Xavi has already been forced to announce his departure from the club at the end of the season and the team’s recent performances are beginning to raise the question in the collective imagination as to whether a change of coach should be made now and not wait until June.

Barcelona, surprisingly, have yet to lose away in the league, but their 2024 is negative at a high level, with the club conceding the most goals in 2024 of the big five leagues.

Xavi’s team is bleeding defensively, but the team also struggles to circulate the ball at speed and his turnovers are poison for a defensive line that is also making individual mistakes. When the structure fails, you rely on individual players, and these (Araújo, Koundé, Cancelo…) aren’t performing at the level expected of them.

All this explains the final that will take place on Saturday in Balaídos. Will we hear all of Balaídos chanting ‘Benítez vaite xa‘ again or will Xavi’s departure be brought forward?

Translated by Marcos Rodríguez.

Main image: Edit Marta Calle.

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