Posts Tagged ‘camp nou’
FC Barcelona’s draw to Villarreal on Saturday has left the reigning Champions seven points adrift of Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid.
The Catalan club may be favourites for the Spanish Cup after last week’s aggregate win over Real Madrid, and will resume their bid to become the first club to successfully retain the Champions League later this month.
But in La Liga, it is difficult to see how they will be able to overturn the deficit that exists between themselves and their rivals from the capital, though it hasn’t stopped the official FC Barcelona website from pointing out how it may be possible.
In a desperate attempt to dispel the doom and gloom following the weekend’s results, an article entitled “Reasons to believe” has appeared on the site, citing five reasons why a fourth consecutive league title is still possible which are as follows:
- The team is able to overcome all kinds of setback
- Home form
- Improvement on the road
- Recovery of resources
- History speaks for itself
Unfortunately it is easy to counter most of the above with a much stronger reason describing why it is Madrid fans who should be the ones believing that a title is not far away.
Barcelona’s home form is indeed impressive, but Real Madrid have been untouchable at the Bernabeu against every team they’ve faced besides Barca and there’s no indication that they’ll lose points in their remaining nine home fixtures.
On the road Real Madrid have dropped points in just two games, winning eight and that highlights why there is such a gap at the top. Barcelona have won only half as many, and drawn five. The article notes that it is still possible for Barcelona to match the record of 13 away wins in the league, but only if Barca win every one of their remaining nine away fixtures, something which seems highly unlikely based on results so far.
Madrid’s form is nothing new. They achieved 96 points in 2009/10 – a club record – and 92 points last year. If they were to match their tally of two years ago, Barcelona would need to win 17 of their 18 remaining games in order to come out on top.
The fourth reason to believe relates to the fact that several of Barcelona’s key players have been missing through injury. That’s unfortunate but is a situation unlikely to fully change until late-April or May, given that David Villa is recovering from a broken leg.
Villa, the team’s second highest goalscorer this season, may return in time to play a part to the conclusion to the Champions League, but there’s plenty of work for Barca to do in the league if they wish to stand a chance of retaining La Liga – work which they must do before Villa returns.
Real Madrid have had fewer problems with injuries to key players, but have a squad which would cope much better should they suffer any significant losses following an investment in players to the tune of more than €400m since the summer of 2009.
Even though the situation may look grim for Barcelona, the title race isn’t over yet. But despite the optimistic outlook which is coming from the club, more realistic fans might already be accepting that this year’s trophy looks incredibly likely to head back to Madrid.
In the days when I was lucky enough to enjoy Sky Sports at home, I used to follow Spanish league football a lot more than the Premiership, and one game still stands out.
It was not an obvious classic between two giants or a famous upset, but a seemingly routine fixture for the title favourites against the team placed bottom of the table.
Barcelona versus Albacete. May 1st, 2005, and the day Lionel Messi scored his first goal for Barcelona.
The hype had been building on the continent for some time about a special player who was about to break through into the Catalan club’s first team, but excitement hadn’t reached England except to those who had a keen interest in Spanish football
At Real Madrid, David Beckham was in his second season and Michael Owen his first, and last.
Ronaldinho meanwhile was lighting up the Camp Nou and would later that year claim a second successive FIFA World Player of the Year award, but they were the only reasons for most casual English football fans to pay attention to events in the Spanish league.
But back to Messi, who was hailed as the ‘next’ Maradona.
We’d heard that before about many players, most notably in the case of Ariel Ortega who, despite obvious talent, never reached his potential and failed to live up to the huge expectations on him after moving to Europe.
In Messi’s case, he really was set to be the next Maradona, with the Argentine legend himself backing up the claims, and he made his first big mark in the fixture with Albacete.
With five games to go in the title race, Barcelona had a three-point lead over Real Madrid with a game in hand. However, the lead had been 11 points less than a month earlier and the pressure was being applied by their Madrid rivals.
A 17-year-old Messi had appeared in seven of Barcelona’s games during 2004/5, making his debut in the city derby with Espanyol aged 17 years and 114 days. Most of those appearances had been as a late substitute and his only start had been in a meaningless December Champions League game in Ukraine.
Against Albacete in round 34 of the season’s calendar, it would be another brief cameo for Messi, though a highly memorable one.
Into the 88th minute of the game, a solitary Samuel Eto’o goal had given Barcelona a narrow lead as Messi prepared to make his entrance.
The atmosphere which greeted him was one of that welcoming a legend onto the field of play rather than a youngster who had less than three hours of senior level experience, but the anticipation of great things was evident.
Not even two minutes had gone by before Messi got on the end of a Ronaldinho pass and produced a delightful chip over the Albacete keeper, Raul Valbuena. The ball dropped into the top corner of the net but was wrongly ruled out for offside.
35 seconds later, he sent a dangerous low cross into the box for another Barcelona youngster, Andres Iniesta, but his attempted shot was blocked.
If nothing else, Messi’s presence had lifted the whole stadium and the noise reached another level when on 90 minutes and 15 seconds, Messi lobbed the on-rushing Valbuena, and this time his goal stood.
It all happened within three minutes of his entrance into the game, and ensured the points were sealed. The title followed two weeks later – Barcelona’s first for six years.
After being crowned World Player of the Year, Ronaldinho joked that he couldn’t be the best player in the world as he wasn’t even the best player at his club.
The debate has moved on since then, and only Pele and Maradona are considered valid players to which Messi can be compared.
Incredibly still aged just 24, there’s plenty of time for Messi to end even that debate.