Champions are made of metal. Barcelona B have looked every bit like champions during this season, overcoming any kind of difficulty that has crossed their path to assert their superiority in Group 3 of the Segunda División B. So well-focused have Gerard’s players been, that they now seem to have mastered the complicated task of playing with a man down. This weekend in Sagunto, the Blaugranas played for half an hour with ten men, and still managed to pull off a seemingly unlikely comeback in the end.
And so 2017 has begun. What was meant to be a promising start to the season has now become a rather interesting start to the season. Let us make one thing very clear: this match is not, and was not, doomsday. The truth is, there is still a second leg to be played at Camp Nou, where an MSN explosion is likely. However, this match exposed weaknesses and chinks in Luis Enrique’s armour that have existed since last season’s UEFA Champions League Quarter Final.
Athletic Club was ravenous in the first half and thrashed an uninspired FC Barcelona two to one in the first leg of their round of 16 Copa Del Rey matchup. Barcelona will cry foul after the match which saw more than one unique decision from referee Fernandez Borbalan. Lionel Messi netted a valuable away free kick goal but was mostly ineffective in a match which Neymar was the sole bright spot.
Barcelona B could not stay away from the taste of victory for too long. After two consecutive draws against Prat and Espanyol B, Barcelona B finished the first round of league action and 2016 with a dramatic win away at CD Ebro. The team from Zaragoza pushed the Blaugranas all the way, but a stellar performance from Jesús Alfaro ensured that the team led by Gerard López held on to top spot to finish the year as winter champions.
Off the back of the disappointing Clásico, today’s match up against an Osasuna team who have won just one of their last 14 home league games was Barcelona’s chance to end their three match drawing streak in La Liga and begin the catch up on Real Madrid, who were six points ahead of Barça at the start of the weekend.
Barcelona fans needed one thing from the last group stage match in Champions League play, a victory. Four draws in five matches in all competitions has left a bitter taste in the Blaugrana’s mouths, but there were three other things the faithful desperately wanted to happen to turn the recent tide for the club. With the top spot in Group C already secured, supporters hoped to see a goal from Paco Alcácer, strong displays from fringe players, and for Lionel Messi to break Cristiano Ronaldo’s record for most goals in the group stage. Well, one out of three ain’t bad especially with the dominating performance displayed by FC Barcelona on the night.
The curse of Anoeta continues as FC Barcelona is lucky to win a draw against a dominating La Real performance. A moment of magic between Neymar and Lionel Messi rescued the club one point. They now sit six behind Real Madrid heading into the first El Clásico of the season.
What a relief it is to have Lionel Messi on your side. Not only is he a magician on the field, but he also has the ability to be the ultimate decider of games- more so than any player in other player in the world. Is it a coincidence that Leo happened to be the player making the run-on into the box conveniently for Neymar to put in a dinked cross that ultimately led to the first goal? It all looks so simple- so easy. But often it is not. Leo has started the season on fire, scoring 17 goals in 13 appearances, whilst also racking up five assists.
Over the past month or so, Barcelona B have installed themselves as favourites for one of the promotion playoff spots in Group 3 of the Segunda División B. The Blaugranas have been excellent value for the lead, but as all teams, they too can have days off. Against Badalona on Saturday, the stars seemed to conspire against Gerard López’s team. In front of the biggest crowd the Miniestadi has seen this season, the reserves huffed and puffed, but all they managed in the end was to lose 3-1 after going down 2-0 at halftime. The golden Segunda B rule was at work again: fail your chances and you shall be punished.
Good teams must know how to win convincingly. But what ultimately makes a good team into a champion team is the ability to win ugly. Against bottom-placed Eldense, Barcelona B didn’t even come close to playing their best football. The Blaugranas did dominate the match from start to finish, looked sharper than the opposition and had the best chances, but still left a lot to be desired with their performance. The team managed to dodge the banana skin in the end, but only just. Gerard Gumbau, who has become a key figure in Barcelona B’s resurgence of late, netted a wonderful free kick just 5 minutes from time to keep his team top of the league standards from yet another week.