Mission Impossible: FC Barcelona

We thought we say it all when Leicester City won the league last season but this year seems to be as odd as the previous one. Leicester City sacked their manager Claudio Ranieri, the man who wrote history with the foxes, Arsenal continue with their early exits in the Champions League and Barcelona, well they completed the biggest comeback ever.

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Luis Enrique’s Barcelona seemed to be heading towards a terrible ending, his club trailed Real Madrid in La Liga despite playing two more games than Zinedine Zidane’s side, they lost 4-0 to PSG in the Champions League and things were chaotic at the club. However, the Catalans defied logic. Barca triumphed 6-1 on Wednesday night, with three goals in the final seven minutes, to clinch an astonishing 6-1 victory and a 6-5 aggregate win but prior to that, they had made sure they reclaimed the top spot in La Liga outplaying Real Madrid both defensively and offensively. They scored six past Sporting Gijon, five past Celta Vigo and two past Atletico Madrid but beating PSG by five goals was just impossible to do.

If there’s one thing we learned from Luis Enrique’s team, It’s that there is no such thing as impossible. With all the problems in the world, having the trio of Messi, Suarez and Neymar can solve anything when the three are on their day and you bet they were when they hosted PSG.

Barcelona have lost five games so far this season against Deportivo Alaves, Athletic Bilbao, Celta Vigo, PSG and Manchester City but they have also beaten all five teams with a much better scoreline.

Luis Enrique announced that he is leaving Barcelona at the end of the season but this did not prevent his players from listening to him and doing their best on the field. Maybe they didn’t do it for him, maybe they did it for the club or for themselves. Whatever their reason was, it worked. There is no doubt that Barcelona’s players have faith in themselves and we’ve seen that this team can beat any team in the world but they are still vulnerable. Barcelona stand a chance to win the treble again under Luis Enrique, they have built the momentum, all they need to do now is focus on the football matters and leave the club’s politics out of their heads.

 

La Liga Title Race Blown Wide Open

Real Madrid ended February with a 3-2 win over Villarreal, reversing a 2-0 deficit by scoring three goals in the second half to win the game and regain their top spot. Earlier that week they had lost 2-1 against Valencia allowing Barcelona to close the gap on them and just last night Los Blancos had to fight back from 3-1 down with only 10 men on the field to end up drawing 3-3 against Las Palmas. Barcelona on their behalf were ruthless scoring six goals against Sporting Gijon.

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Barcelona now lead the La Liga table with 57 points, Real Madrid sit just one point behind them although Zinedine Zidane’s side has played one game less than Luis Enrique’s but considering his club’ current form, their title charge could be in jeopardy. The title race is officially back on, even though it was never called off. Despite the frenzy and drama that surrounded Barcelona following their 4-0 defeat to Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League, the Catalans are now on an 18-game unbeaten run in La Liga and have won their last five matches in the league. Domestically, they are dominating and they’re close to winning the Copa del Rey as long as the don’t falter against Deportivo Alaves.

The build-up to next month’s Clasico couldn’t have been better. Real Madrid have dropped five points in the past three matches allowing Barcelona to catch some ground. However, it’s not all disaster at the Santiago Bernabeu. Real Madrid may have let him plenty of goals recently but their fighting spirit has proved to be vital. Their second half performance is worth noting as they’ve been able to score late goals. Cristian Ronaldo is back to performing well, he’s now at 18 goals in the league, just three behind Leo Messi. Defensively, Real Madrid may be fourth best but in terms of attack, they’re second only to Barcelona.

Zinedine Zidane still has one game in hand and winning it could get his team back on top of the league but Barcelona’s failure in Europe means that they will be prepared to play their best in next month’s Clasico. The two sides badly need a win, Real Madrid have not won the league in five years now while Barcelona are hoping to cover up for their European failure for a second year running by winning the league for a third consecutive time.

Barcelona: Building Momentum

Confusion, disorder and chaos filled the air during the build up to Real Madrid’s trip to Galicia in the weekend but the match against Celta Vigo was never played. The terrible winter weather and Galicia’s geographical location on the Atlantic Ocean meant that winds travelling at a speed of 150 kilometers per hour had dislodged parts of the roof at the Balaidos stadium. Thus, for obvious safety reasons, Celta Vigo’s game with Real Madrid had to be called off.

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Real Madrid who already had one game postponed from earlier this season against Valencia will now have to fit in their busy schedule another tie against Celta. Madrid still have Champions League football to fill their upcoming weeks while Celta Vigo who kicked Real Madrid out of the Copa del Rey have to play in the Europa League. The postponement could be a blessing or it could be harmful for Los Blancos who continue to lead the table despite playing two games less than their rivals Barcelona.

On the other hand, Barcelona took advantage of Real Madrid’s inaction and made a statement by registering a 3-0 win over Athletic Bilbao. Aleix Vidal, who was an outcast in the earlier half of the season, seems to be back in the squad and he was even on the scoresheet. Barcelona are now just one point behind their historical nemesis Real Madrid. They will be hoping that European distraction could make Zinedine Zidane’s team falter in the league, but Los Merengues need to falter in three games for Barcelona to be able to take advantage. Barcelona built up further momentum by securing a 1-1 draw with Atletico Madrid to make their way to the Copa del Rey final against Deportivo Alaves. Can Barcelona continue their form and avoid dropping points in the league?

It’s highly unlikely but possible. Last season Real Madrid managed to close a big gap with Barcelona only to finish the season just behind. This season, things have been reversed, Barcelona are the ones who have a mountain to climb. The difficulty of the task makes one wonder, should the Catalans put more focus on the Champions League or should they fight on both fronts equally? The Blaugrana will be facing PSG next week and have a high chance of advancing since PSG has been having a tough season in the Ligue 1 and is not known to be a big player on a European level. The football season is nearing its peak and this is the most crucial time of the season. Real Madrid’s postponed game means that the title battle has been reignited at least for the time being.

Chelsea Break Away

Chelsea’s season just went from good to even better. The Blues did not even have to defeat Liverpool last night to extend their lead over their rivals. A 1-1 draw was more than enough to keep Arsenal and Spurs away. In fact, the Blues afforded missing a penalty late on in the game and it probably won’t come back to haunt Antonio Conte.

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Arsenal had the chance to make use of Chelsea’s draw but instead they trembled. The Gunners saw themselves two goals down before pulling back a consolidation goal to end the game with a 2-1 loss at home to Watford. Elsewhere, Tottenham failed to make use of both results as they themselves were stuck in a 0-0 draw against struggling Sunderland. Arsenal should have done better on several occasions and they were lucky to scrap results against the Premier League’s small sides: scraping a 2-1 home win against Burnley last week with a penalty seven minutes into injury time, a last-gasp 3-3 draw away to Bournemouth after trailing 3-0 and an 86th minute winner against West Bromwich Albion meant that a loss to a small side was inevitable.

While Chelsea continue to fly at the top of the table, a new battle is about to emerge. The fight for the Champions League spots will probably go down to the very last week. Only a single point separates second placed Tottenham from 5th placed Manchester City while Manchester United are just four points away from the fourth spot. The battle for the top four will be an interesting one. It will be interesting to see how Arsenal and Manchester City will cope with the pressure of having to play Champions League football without compromising their performance domestically.

Chelsea are nine points clear from their closest rival after just 23 games. The Blues are not having a great season at Stamford Bridge, they aren’t playing their best football. However, they have shown their resilience and strength by doing what is needed to win consistently. The title race is far from over but we have all the reasons to believe that Chelsea will hold on to their lead until summer. The real questions is, will Conte guide Chelsea to European success or is the league title enough?

Early Exit: Real Madrid out of Copa del Rey

A Tired Real Madrid side suffered an early Copa del Rey exit following a 2-2 draw and a 4-3 aggregate loss against Celta Vigo last night. Real Madrid’s hopes of winning the treble have faded away but Los Merengues should seize the opportunity to shift their focus on reclaiming the La Liga title after many years of failure.

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Real Madrid currently sit on top of La Liga table with 43 points despite having played on less game than both Sevilla (42 points) and Barcelona (41 points). Until recently Madrid had a 40 game unbeaten streak, but they have now won just one of their last five games. There are definitely worrying signs for the capital club but perhaps their early exit from the domestic cup would allow them to focus on staying ahead of Sevilla and Barcelona in the title race and return to their winning ways.

Last night Real Madrid failed to score from open play and in recent times they have had to rely on Sergio Ramos’ scoring abilities to be saved in other games. It is obvious that the team is tired and the injuries have not helped Zinedine Zidane give his players a rest. The season started straight after the Euros and Real Madrid had to partake in last season’s Champions League final as well as this season’s European Super Cup and the Club World Cup. Things have definitely been hectic for Madrid but they shouldn’t rest on their laurels just yet.

Zidane will now be focusing on the upcoming games against Real Sociedad in La Liga and Napoli in the Champions League. Real Madrid needs to be strong, convincing and uncompromising in their games. Any hiccup in the upcoming games could put the team under unneeded pressure. The season goes on as Atletico Madrid, Celta Vigo, Deportivo Alaves and one of Barcelona and Real Sociedad proceed to the Copa del Rey’s semi-finals. Perhaps, this could be a chance for Luis Enrique’s Barcelona to win some silverware this year.