Nero idly stroked the strings of a lyre as he watched Rome burn. Rudi García may well have had an instrument of his own to pluck away on from the bench as he helplessly witnessed AS Roma be eviscerated by an unstoppable looking and blissfully happy FC Barcelona. Words are wonderful tools yet there are times they fall woefully short of giving events the justice deserved. Yesterday evening falls into such a category. All the illustrative adjectives and adverbs of language cannot truly paint the picture of this 6-1 victory in all its ruthless artistry. Over the past three days Barça have scored 10 goals, it may easily have been 20, against the most expensive team in football and a perennial Serie A contender. Barça took control of Spain’s La Liga and for the ninth season running finished first in their UEFA Champions League group. And they did so with smiles and laughter as much as with otherworldly football. History beware – Barça is coming for you.
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.
FC Barcelona passed its final test before travelling to face Real Madrid with flying colors.
Villarreal CF have managed to sit on top of the league for a couple of rounds this season, edging Spain’s dominating trio and becoming the first team to do so in a long time. The Yellow Submarine arrived to the Camp Nou in fourth place with many anticipating a tough game or maybe even an upset, but that wasn’t the case. Last night, the brilliance of Neymar Jr. took over once again.
With a pair of games still remaining in the group stages, one in Leverkusen before hosting Roma at Camp Nou, FC Barcelona have all but qualified for the knock-out stages. Though BATE put up a better fight in Spain than in Belarus, it was always a matter of time before Barça’s superiority took center stage. It was another evening that Neymar and Luis Suárez grabbed the headlines while enjoying themselves doing so.
The win, however, was blighted with an injury to will keep Ivan Rakitić on the sidelines for a month, effectively ruling him out of the clásico in three weeks’ time. However, the injury merry go round saw the return of captain Andrés Iniesta, who played very well indeed with multiple signature ghost turns out of the ether. Thomas Vermaelen too played a full 90 minutes without problem.
Many have long wondered how a Messi-less Barcelona would perform, arguing that the Argentine provides the Catalan club with an undisputed advantage – and they’re right. But the expectations mostly revolved around a struggling, mediocre Barça that would fail to compete with the elite, and that is where people were wrong. In the absence of Lionel Messi, both Neymar Jr. and Luis Suárez have assumed full responsibility of keeping Barcelona in the game until his return. They’ve done so again tonight in a match that is usually full of surprises each season, but they did get some help from one of Barcelona’s top performers this season: Sergi Roberto.
Aside from a quick, early assault ending with Munir El Haddadi’s bicycle kick just missing the target, Barcelona’s first 30 minutes were rich in control but poor in creativity. Neymar looked once again solely responsible for chance creation, embracing the Messi role but from his preferred left side. The Brazilian would constantly search for Suárez who was heavily guarded by at least a couple of Getafe defenders who were very careful not to allow the Uruguayan an ounce of space. As Suárez struggled and Neymar was kept isolated, I could not help but feel that the midfield was lacking something – or someone.