It’s Sunday, April 18. A stunned Nou Camp is silenced. As the final whistle is sounded and the Camp Nou faithful filter out home, their conversations would be arboured by what they had just witnessed. This wasn't the 'normal' Barcelona they were used to seeing.
Valencia had just run out 2-0 winners. The same team that Barcelona humiliated 7-0 just two months ago in the Copa del Rey. That defeat for Valencia stoked the fire of discontent towards the former England and Manchester defender Gary Neville and signaled the beginning of the end for his tenure.
This defeat isn’t the sole reason why the label ‘crisis’ has been branded around the media. It’s the run of form and astonishing collapse of what was seeming to be a run away treble for the Catalan giants. Just over two months ago, Barcelona tore apart Getafe 6-0, and then travelled to North London to put Arsenal to the sword, with the ‘MSN’ – Messi, Suarez and Neymar – strike-force putting on a masterclass. What’s gone wrong? We can only speculate, but has there been an overall drop in performance level?
The fact that Barcelona have lost three on the bounce (for the first time in 16 years) and four of five in all competitions, cannot be ignored. However, how do the stats compare? Well, analysing their performance against Valencia, on paper, everything seems normal. Barcelona enjoying a lions share of possession (60%) and littering the opponents goal with efforts (22 in total). It seems the issue is physiological. This is a squad assembled of world-class talent and used to winning, week in, week out. Up until just a few weeks ago, Barcelona went over 30 games without defeat, which I think emphasizes that earlier point. However, dealing with a rough patch, dip in form, is something unusual to them. We also need to remember, that they are only human (which can be hard to see sometimes).
For a season that seemed to be a foregone conclusion, now the salvaging effort begins. For Barcelona, their bread and butter of La Liga is now hanging by a thread. They sit level on points with Atlético Madrid and a point ahead of ‘El Clásico’ opponents, Real Madrid. They do, however, enjoy an overall better head-to-head record against their title rivals and perhaps more importantly, a better end of season run-in. All of Barcelona’s final five opponents languish in the bottom half of the table, starting with Deportivo La Coruña who sit at the dizzy heights of 13th.
Let’s remember the team we’re talking about are, yes, in a slump. But they’re no ordinary team. Expect more twists and turns as the season enters its final throws, but expect a more determined Barcelona in the coming weeks. Something their rivals will pray in earnest doesn’t happen. #Football #Champions League