Football's a simple game but at the same time it's unjust. That's how it is. The big games can cost you. And the last Clasico was not an exception. Barcelona's games against Real Madrid are like the moment in poker when you put your cards on the table.
There are no more bluffs. You discover what you couldn't see before. Wednesday's game served to show the character of, for example, Malcom, Nelson Semedo and Arthur. But it also revealed the poor form which Philippe Coutinho's going through. He didn't perform in the Clasico.
The game against Madrid served to confirm an unwanted diagnosis: the advantage is that, once an ill is known, you can look to find a solution. For the moment, the dressing room, as explained by SPORT, has reacted quickly and transmitted its confidence in the Brazilian, who is loved and respected by his teammates.
Coach Ernesto Valverde's followed the same line and is showing faith, even more than is reasonable. But Barça don't wait for anyone. Like it or not, you're either catapulted to fame of left in the bin. There's no middle ground. Coutinho needs a quick reaction, like Ousmane Dembele under the season, who in record time when from hero to villain because he showed his talent where it matters, on the pitch.
Curiously, the explosion of the Frenchman, in contrast to serving as a stimulus, has appeared to hurt Coutinho even more. He stil has room to prove himself: there are two more Clasicos around the corner and the Champions League. But the countdown has begun and time (at Camp Nou you don't get much) is starting to run out. It's, literally, now or never. He only has one way out: face the pressure and use it as energy to free himself. Dembele did it.