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.
Gerard López’s Barcelona B side looked to their front three on Saturday as they overcame the relatively routine task of earning three points at home to a Gavà side who, despite being in the bottom four, won their last two matches at home to Levante B and Cornellà.
It was about time. Barcelona B rediscovered their best version in Cornellà, and after exhibiting their superiority against a rival which had beaten them in the first round match at the Miniestadi, Gerard’s men took home all three points with a 2-0 win that rather flatters the hosts. Barcelona B’s revenge on their Catalan neighbors was based on the team’s defensive solidity and the attacking effectiveness. The winning cocktail of the two ensured that the Blaugranas maintained their slender one-point lead at the top of the table for yet another week.
This team has not looked worse in years. After probably the worst and most humbling performance since being hammered in historic fashion by Bayern Munich in 2013, CD Leganés had been identified as a match in which culés the world over had expected a thirst-quenching response. And after a fairly straightforward goal within the first five minutes by a seemingly frustrated Lionel Messi, we could be forgiven for expecting a ruthless release of frustration. But it was not to be. Instead, as the game wore on, it seemed this would be yet another complicated evening for Luis Enrique’s men.
FC Barcelona punished a lethargic Deportivo Alavés away at the Estadio Mendizorrotza six to nil. Alavés lost the plot in the second half conceding four goals in the span of eight minutes. The match should have ended as revenge for the home defeat Alavés afflicted the club earlier in the season and as a warning to their future Copa del Rey final opponents. Unfortunately, the match will be remembered and marred by the late horrific ankle injury to Aleix Vidal.
This tie was the first real acid test of the 2016/2017 season. In Atlético, we faced our conquerors from a season ago; The team that famously stopped the MSN in last season’s UEFA Champions League semi-final. This tie gave us a look into what the takeaways of that encounter were. And with flying colours, Luis Enrique passed the test.
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.
One point won or two points lost? Barça B could not take full advantage of their home encounter against their closest challengers for top spot, Alcoyano, but in the end the reserves managed to save a point, with Gerard Gumbau coming to the team’s rescue with textbook free kick right at the death. A draw was probably the best Barcelona B could get out of this match given the way things panned out, but the feeling at the end was one of what it could have been had the best Barça B turned up.
Futbol Club Barcelona escaped the Estadio Benito Villamarín with a point after some bizarre referee decisions and lackluster play. Fans will blame the lack of rest between matches, the early start time, injuries, and mainly the referee but the club has to take a long look in the mirror after such an unconvincing performance. Real Betis were unfortunate to earn only a draw after hitting the crossbar and the post as well as overall pushing Barcelona to its limits.
Unbeaten runs, no matter how impressive they get, have a beginning and an end. Our friends in Madrid saw their bubble burst last week, but Barcelona’s reserve team didn’t seem to take notice. After beating Hércules last week, a rival with similar ambitions, Barcelona B wanted to further extend their seven-match unbeaten run against another high-flying rival, Villarreal B. The hurdle proved a little too high for the Blaugranas though, whose meaningless dominance of possession was no much for the Yellow Submarine’s effectiveness.