Barcelona expect frosty return to Camp Nou with recovery a long way off
AFP, Valencia :
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 sacked.
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 Valladolid.
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.