Some people in the football media have been suggesting that the Barcelona and Argentina star Lionel Messi was past his best and could no longer have the amazing ability to win a game on his own or produce the breathtaking football which has seen him become the most successful player ever with four Ballon D’Or awards to his name so far.
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.
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.
The most successful manager in the history of FC Barcelona will be coming back to his old stomping ground this week, as Pep Guardiola brings his new club Manchester City to the Nou Camp for the first of two back to back group games in the Champions League.
The former boss is under no illusion about the size of the task facing Man City either, as he has described his former club as a machine and even though his new side is packed with talents like David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero, Pep has said that his players should expect to have less possession of the ball.
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 fans are still reeling from the shock La Liga defeat dished out by newly promoted Alaves at the weekend, so Luis Enrique is looking for an instant and emphatic return to form tonight against the Scottish champions Celtic in the first of the Champions League group games.
The main reason for that defeat in post people’s eyes was the manager’s decision to make seven changes and leave key players like Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique, Luis Suarez and of course Lionel Messi on the bench and one of the reasons he would have done it was to keep them fresh for tonight.
Can Barcelona retain their La Liga title?
Finishing just ahead of fierce rivals Real Madrid by one point gave Barcelona their 24th La Liga title, with Luis Enrique continuing his fine start to management at the Nou Camp. A 23-match unbeaten run proved to be crucial as Barca edged in front during a three-horse race at the summit, and although three consecutive defeats opened the door to both Madrid clubs, neither could capitalise as Barcelona regained their composure to win the last five games and be crowned champions for the second year running.
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.