Almost three months to the day, Arda Turan made his debut for FC Barcelona after accepting to sit on the sidelines for five months until the FIFA transfer ban expires. Expectations were expectedly for the Turk after a phenomenal spell with Atlético Madrid prior to joining the Catalan club, and with Rafinha Alcântara out injured at the time, his importance to the team automatically grew with yet a minute to play. And three months later, one must ask: What does Arda bring to the team?
Having witnessed a disappointing clásico, some culés still feel daunted by the defeat. Why shouldn’t they? I mean, it’s hardly the best way to end a record-breaking unbeaten run: on home turf, against an eternal rival in their supposed “underdog season,” with their own legend’s first outing on the sideline, and on the day of Cruyff’s ultimate tribute.
This isn’t how it was supposed to be and that’s why we all collectively love the beautiful game so much: anything can surprise you no matter how much you analyse it.
But to say game’s over? Far from it.
For a couple of months, I’ve been thinking about how differently Barça play now compared to last season. As I’ve written several times, Luis Enrique’s first season was characterized by a very clear system, built around Lionel Messi and Neymar’s wing play. The two would start wide and then look to cut inside diagonally, either by dribbling, working short passes off of Luis Suárez, or playing a cross-field pass over the defense. The triangles formed out wide, especially on the right with Messi, Dani Alves, and Ivan Rakitić, were potent and very difficult to defend. Almost nothing of that system was visible today.
When it comes to clásicos, this one doesn’t feel so classic. Barça’s league superiority is so large at 10 points that with only 8 games remaining it would require Barça to lose too many times to appear realistic. Furthermore, there’s no reason to give Zinedine Zidane’s a great chance of winning tomorrow, which they need to do to have even a pretend hope of catching up. Barça will come out tomorrow a team of crystalline identity, Real Madrid are confused, fingers are being pointed and according to reports the club is effectively looking to the endless promises held in a next season. There’s talk this is the game Gareth Bale makes his mark. If that’s where Madrid’s hopes lie, hopes feel increasingly flimsy.
El gran Clásico on Saturday begs a question to all culés – when was the last time we faced our arch enemies so comfortably? A 10 point gap and a ridiculously long unbeaten streak gives Barça the ultimate mindset for the classic clash at Camp Nou. A win will keep Barça’s pace and momentum going as they aim to win their second consecutive league early. A loss however, could unsettle Lucho’s dynasty, and here’s why.
El Clásico is always a thrilling occasion. This time around, it should be no different. Does Barça have La Liga in the bag? Is Ronaldo going to win the golden boot? Does it matter? Yes, yes it does. All of it matters.
In anticipation of the upcoming clash, totalBarça and World F.C. have come together to host a contest in giving away a newly designed t-shirt dedicated to the blaugrana. View the shirt and enter the contest after the jump!
After Friday morning’s training session, it’s been reported that Luis Suarez has suffered a thigh injury that will rule him out Saturday’s clash. It has not been confirmed how long the Uruguayan will be sidelined, but inside sources say he may be also doubtful for Tuesday’s Champions League clash against Atlético de Madrid. Read more for statements made by the club, Luis Enrique, and Barça’s captain Andrés Iniesta.
The spectators at the Santiago Bernabéu stadium fill in all the way down to the field, where they are only feet away from the touch line. At times, they reach out their hands to touch players who cross the line to retrieve a ball. They stand against waist-high gates, and look straight ahead. The whole pitch sits there at eye-level. Even in the old film, the fog of breath is visible in the late winter night.
It was a different era – for Real Madrid, for football, for Spain. In twenty years, the Castilian club has won thirteen league titles and six European Cups. During that same time, FC Barcelona have won the league only twice, and not at all since 1960. In February of 1974, though, Barcelona are first in the league, and the men in white sit seventh (they will finish eighth).
Original interview was given by Luis Suarez for the program “Onze Helden” (Our Heroes) for the Dutch channel KPN, in which he went over his adaptation to Barcelona and his relationship with his colleagues (he repeats that there is no jealousy nor envy between him, Messi and ‘Ney’); he talks about Johan Cruyff and Luis Enrique and gives a shocking confession: “I thought that I didn’t have enough quality to play for Barca”. This write-up is a translation of the article in “Mundo Deportivo” covering said interview. MD’s piece can be found here: http://www.mundodeportivo.com/futbol/fc-barcelona/20160328/40713577201/la-increible-confesion-de-luis-suarez.html
Last week, after the Villarreal match, a few members of the totalBarça team ranked the blaugrana based on their current form. Participants included David Clarke, Aly Abdel Wahab, Anna Vito, Youssef Awwad, and me. Lists were compiled, points were tallied, and this is what we came up with: