One of the most difficult – and overlooked – positions in all of sports is the goalkeeper. In many ways, they are the most important player in the defense. In a team like FC Barcelona, they are important tactically as well. As they can see the whole pitch, the keeper is often called upon to play the ball just like a midfield player. Being a keeper is an important job. Which is why I’m proud to say ours is Marc-André ter Stegen.
FC Barcelona, for all intents and purposes, is a desperate club right now. The Neymar transfer debacle has ended, and now the team wants to sign players to reinforce the squad and replace him.
So why are they so bad at it?
… and everything. Maybe it’s time for a moment of reflection. All the news floating around has made things difficult, but let’s try to take it in. Buckle up, this is going to be a long one.
With the fate of La Liga officially out of our hands, all we can do is continue to win and hope for a slip-up. The match on the weekend against Villarreal was a test: The best defense in the league was rolling, having won its last three games. But Barça found a way, as they often do.
The Camp Nou was buzzing as almost 100,000 fans commemorated Lionel Messi’s 500 goals. It seemed as if the match against Osasuna was a side attraction. The match ended up being enjoyable while putting pressure on Real Madrid to perform. Leo appreciated the gesture, but, as we saw, he wasn’t done yet.
Yes, I know about PSG and that historic comeback. That was truly something special, a magical night at the Camp Nou when we witnessed something that had never happened before. A 6-1 win after being 4-0 down? A stoppage time winner that saw a stadium of nearly 100,000 explode? Sergi Roberto will forever have a special place in the hearts of all Barça fans. Neymar’s undying faith that anything can happen fueled his wonderful play. It was one of the greatest nights in football history – unless you’re a PSG fan, of course.
But la Juve is a different beast altogether.
If any of you have ever seen The Departed (no spoilers here), do you remember that part in the elevator where you thought it was about to end well and then it suddenly didn’t end well at all? With this win over Atlético Madrid on Sunday, La Liga has become that elevator scene. And yes, Real Madrid also won against Villareal, but they were anything but convincing – and once again, dubious referee decisions (yes, again) allowed Real back into the match. FC Barcelona are closing up the gap, and Sevilla don’t appear to be going anywhere. While this ain’t Boston, that elevator scene might be playing out over the next few weeks.
Hey, Luis Enrique used those very same words. He was referring, of course, to being able to withstand other teams’s pressure. It’s no secret, of course, that teams have been using this strategy for a while, knowing how the Barcelona style of play depends on ball control and possession. Teams that have had success against Barcelona have implemented that very same strategy time and time again with Luis Enrique teams (Celta beat them 4-3, Athletic Bilbao took a 2-0 lead in Copa, Valencia almost snatched a victory earlier this season). Oftentimes, Barcelona’s superior talent is enough to see them through, but the opposition can make life difficult for them. Despite this, with the match against Atlético Madrid that saw Barça advance to their fourth straight Copa final we learned that maybe Luis Enrique’s side has learned how to suffer.
A match between Barcelona and the opposition from the north is always sure to be a good one. With Paco Alcácer starting in place of Luis Suárez, Lionel Messi and Neymar up front, the midfield was made up of André Gomes, Arda Turan, and Rafinha. The defense included Aleix Vidal, Gerard Piqué, Samuel Umtiti and Jeremy Mathieu. With Marc-André ter Stegen in goal, the match was off.
Villareal, with the best defense in La Liga, hosted Barcelona, with the best offense in La Liga, on Sunday. The match was complicated from the beginning, but it proved to be even more so as the game went on.