There is no doubt that FC Barcelona have not been their usual brilliant and ruthless selves this season. With an early La Liga defeat at home to lowly Alaves, followed a month later by a loss against Celta Vigo, and with draws against title rivals Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid, we saw Luis Enrique’s team struggle to stay in touch at the top.
Even though Barca produced a fine display at the weekend to beat local rivals Espanyol, bringing them within three points of the league leaders, we must remember that Real Madrid have a game in hand to play because of their trip to the Club World Cup. So you might think that the odds of Barcelona retaining the Spanish title of 2.75 are about right (Courtesy of CrownBet).
I would beg to differ though, and the main reason is the fact that Barca have the magical Lionel Messi in the team. Perhaps the Argentinean was stung into action after losing out once again to Cristiano Ronaldo for the Ballon D’Or, but he was certainly back to his best against Espanyol, as Sky Sports La Liga expert Terry Gibson explained in a report this week.
To be fair to little Leo, he has not exactly been poor, with 23 goals in all competitions already this season, as well as plenty of assists. You could say that his influence has not been quite as much as a few years ago. But I think that we are now seeing the best of him again and that is a massive bonus for Barcelona’s title challenge.
It is not just Messi either, because Enrique has had to cope with quite a few key players out through injury. Those problems have eased though and I expect Barca to be much better in the second half of the season. In my opinion that makes their title odds seem pretty generous as there is still another El Clasico and many games to be played.