Review: Luis Enrique carves his name into clásico history


It seems strange to say that a coach who won the treble in his debut season could yet hit his peak, but Saturday night’s victory against Real Madrid might be Luis Enrique’s pinnacle moment as a manager.

Sure, the 3-0 defeat of Bayern Munich last spring was higher stakes and the 3-1 victory over Atlético Madrid more symbolic. This clásico had none of the raw energy and breakneck pace that Lucho’s Barça demonstrated from January to May of this year – and indeed, that might be what makes it so impressive. From the first minute, Barça were calm and composed on the ball and when the first goal came, it was after a full 1 minute and 45 seconds of possession in which nine different players touched the ball. This was a team performance – the team performance.


Café con leche: Picking up the pieces


Eagerly anticipated returns

While Luis Enrique has yet to lose confidence in either Javier Mascherano or Jeremy Mathieu, he’ll be certain to rejoice at the prospect of counting on the services of Thomas Vermaelen and Adriano again. The former looked confident and commanding in his few performances for the blaugrana, which is exactly what the team needs at the moment. The Brazilian on the other hand is more of an alternative at left-back to Mathieu who has been abysmal this season.


Review: Neither panic nor excuses needed after Sevilla loss

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Losing to Sevilla at the Sánchez Pizjuán is not a cause for panic; certainly not when Barça will at worst be two points behind Real Madrid by the end of the weekend. If the Madrid derby goes Atlético Madrid’s way, Barça could even be ahead of their arch rivals (though behind league leaders Villarreal, remarkable as that is to say).

Nor is this, however, a bogey game where Barça did everything possible and the ball simply would not go in. That bad luck argument is tempting given how many shots Barça took, but how many were good opportunity shots? Sergio Rico made many saves, it’s true, but most were less death-defying miracles and more a vigilant keeper doing his job. Simply put, Barça needed to do a lot more than improve their finishing.


“He’s not good enough”: On opportunity, growth, and success

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Last night’s match highlighted two things. One, Jordi Alba is very, very good and he has finally made it clear just how much Barça need him. Two, Barça’s alternatives at left-back are nowhere near his level. Jérémy Mathieu endured a horrible game against Bayer Leverkusen, the latest of several poor performances so far this season, and Adriano Correia is routinely torn apart by opposing wingers.

Faced with this predicament, many have pointed to La Masia’s Alejandro Grimaldo, the captain of Barça B and their most consistent performer last season. And here’s where the conversation gets interesting.


Match Review: Luis Enrique’s best performance yet

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It seems incredible to say this after a treble-winning season, but Saturday night’s match against Atlético Madrid might just have been Luis Enrique’s best yet. It had little of the meteoric thrill that pervaded his side in the first half of 2015, from that first 3-1 thrashing of Atlético Madrid to the exhilarating defeats of Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich. Six months ago, Luis Enrique’s Barcelona felt like a juggernaut, cutting through every team in Europe out of sheer momentum – nobody really knew where it came from or how long it would last, but they loved every second.

This season, the sensations have changed. The invincible have suddenly seemed human, the defense no longer impregnable, the ultra-fit squad suddenly fatigued and injury-prone. Most people, sensible, have stopped short of predicting doom and gloom for the reigning Spanish and Europe champions, but the atmosphere is no longer so electric. There is a sense that the Catalans will have to work hard just to make it through the fall. And that’s exactly what they did last night, thanks in large part to Luis Enrique.