There is no doubt that FC Barcelona have an injury crisis on their hands, especially in terms of the defence, Luis Enrique was already having to cope without the Spanish international left back and centre back Jordi Alba and Gerard Pique and the problem got worse this week after the French star Jeremy Matthieu joined them on the sidelines after picking up a foot problem in the Catalonian Super Cup win over Espanyol on Tuesday, as reported by Sky Sports.
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It has been a tough week for the Barcelona boss Luis Enrique and his players, who have somehow found themselves embroiled in controversy and even blamed for the incident last week in the hard fought La Liga win away to Valencia. But the manager responded this week in the best way by drawing a line under the issue and reminding everyone what FC Barcelona stands for.
Anyone would think that Barca were the bad guys the way the Spanish media have been recently and the Spanish football authorities did not help when they fined Valencia a measly 1500 euros after Naymar was hit by a bottle from the crowd when celebrating Lionel Messi’s late winner from the spot.
Just a week or so ago it was Barcelona and our manager Luis Enrique that was under pressure after that shock home defeat to Alaves left us trailing the early La Liga pace setters of Real Madrid. Zinedine Zidane had our big rivals purring and they even matched Barca’s record of consecutive league wins.
Since then, however, the tides have turned somewhat. Seven goals without replay in the Champions League group game against Celtic was followed by five more as we pasted Leganes on their own turf. Even better was that Madrid ended their winning run by only managing a point at home to Villarreal in midweek.
Barcelona have a lot of pre-season training and then a few high profile friendly matches to get through before then, but on Friday August 12th Luis Enrique and his players will face the first of two legs against Sevilla to determine which club will pick up the Spanish Super Cup this year.
And despite Barcelona having a good recent record against the club from Andalucia, including the 2-0 win over them in last season’s Copa Del Rey final and a thrilling 5-4 win in extra time in last season’s UEFA Super Cup clash, these two games promise to be a very tough test.
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.
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.