A midweek 7-0 (which has been described by club personnel as “one of the worst defeats in Valencia’s club history”) and two club statements issued from the board in quick succession in which they “demand respect”, one for an email spying scandal case against former club president Sandro Rosell and one involving a press spat with Neymar Sr., the 0-2 win on Sunday at noon against Levante was an uneventful end to an eventful week.
Post today’s game, a good friend of mine who watches football from time to time sent me the following message:
“How is the communication between the front three so good? Poor Valencia, it should be illegal for ‘MSN’ to play that well”. I think those sentiments sum up yesterday’s game, from a neutral point of view at least, quite well.
Back in 2014, a match against Atlético Madrid meant the impossibility of scoring, that if the rojiblancos nicked a single goal a win was impossible. Before that, Pep Guardiola’s Barça routinely went head-to-head with Atleti in unpredictable matches with wild scorelines. Luis Enrique’s Barça, however, do exactly what is needed, no more, no less – especially in its second season as players begin to tire. That uncanny ability is arguably Luis Enrique’s strongest accomplishment, and it was the defining feature of the clash at Camp Nou on Saturday.
One of the main characteristics that help identify Luis Enrique’s Barcelona is their ability to bounce back, even when they’re playing badly. We saw that just four days ago against Málaga CF when FC Barcelona arguably played their worst 45 minutes of football this season, but ultimately the three points were won. Tonight’s case was similar, and once again the players’ stubborn character persevered against a desperate Athletic Club that did not have much to lose. Sometimes, it all comes down to whether you possess the spirit of champions or not.
Málaga, not Barça, begin to find themselves in an estado de Gracia or state of grace.
This compliment is meant, of course, for a noble, valiant Málaga, in praise of their coach’s plan, not for a tired, heavily rotational, and poor Barça, visibly fatigued after the high intensity encounters against Athletic and Espanyol in the Copa during recent weeks. Even with Arda and Aleix fitting in perfectly, playing a match every three days takes its toll.