Of course it will be a concern to Luis Enrique, his players and everyone concerned with FC Barcelona that the team suffered their first defeat of the season last night. And the French champions PSG will be hard to dislodge from the top of the Champions League group after their 3-2 win at the Parc des Princes, but it is by no means a disaster.
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Recent media reports suggesting that the Barcelona and Argentina international Lionel Messi had lost his way and was not the same player that set that amazing scoring record a couple of years ago, seem to have been a bit premature, if not downright disrespectful and short sighted.
Messi proved his critics wrong once again on Saturday, bagging another brace to help Barcelona regain their place at the top of Spain’s La Liga table. He also provided two assists as Barca ran riot and beat Granada by 6-0 in front of the delighted Nou Camp crowd. Not only did little Leo make it five goals from six league games so far this season, but his first of the two goal made the remarkable record of 400 goals for club and country. And that does not even count the goals he scored for the Barca B team when he was a teenager breaking through.
With their two main La Liga rivals having a slow start, Barcelona were able to open up an early gap at the top of the Spanish league table. But it is very early days and nobody was getting too excited, because the performances were still a bit patchy and it was clear that the new manager Luis Enrique had plenty of work to do.
That was highlighted by the midweek game at Malaga. The Andalucians deserve a lot of credit for their draw, as they were very organised and worked tirelessly to close the Barca players down. And they forged the better chances, but the old Barcelona would have dominated the game more and created much more.
Spain will enter the 2014 World Cup on the cusp of unprecedented history that would symbolise their dominance at international level through a golden generation of players who have finally delivered the glory that so many squads in the past had the potential to achieve. No other nation in the history of football has won four consecutive major international tournaments, with Spain also in line to hold the distinction of being the only team to have successfully defended both European and World Cup titles in the eight year period.
I have been reading reports that FC Barcelona are not planning any big celebrations for this season, even though they have their destiny in their own hands and just need to win today to retain the title of champions of Spain. But this is ridiculous.
In fact, the Catalans should possibly view this trophy as the best, because it was the hardest to come by. With all the problems and twists in this landmark season, for Barcelona to finish it as champions, ahead of the two Champions League finalists from Madrid, would be pretty amazing.
If fans of Barcelona have been suffering lately because of the problems on the football pitch, the news that broke yesterday of the tragic death of Tito Vilanova has put it all in perspective. Football is just a game and the club motto, Mas Que un Club, could not be more evocative of anyone but Tito.
He was part of the Barca family and was dearly loved by all of the players, past and present. He finally lost his battle with throat cancer at the tender age of 45, leaving a wife and two children, one of whom is currently at the Barcelona academy. The club and players are devastated, even though it had been coming for some time, and there have been countless messages of condolence and support for his family, as well as tributes to the man.
After a few weeks in which nothing has gone right for FC Barcelona, there was finally some good news for the cub and the fans. The transfer ban that had been imposed by FIFA for breaking the rules about underage players from non-EU countries has now been lifted. But it has only been suspended.
We still don’t know whether or not Barca will be allowed to sign players in January or next summer, so the club is planning to make hay while the sun shines. There is going to be a massive overhaul of the squad, from top to bottom.
FC Barcelona have enough problems on their hands without having to deal with Cristiano Ronaldo, so Tata Martino and his players will have received the injury update from Carlo Ancelotti with open arms. Ronaldo is still out of action with what is being reported as tendonitis or a muscular problem in the thigh.
Andres Iniesta and other Barcelona players have refused, publicly at least, to accept that Real Madrid will be significantly weakened by this, as they have the likes of Isco, Di Mari and Morata who could take his place, but they must be pretty glad of the news really.