Tim Stannard looks at how the Spanish and European champs have conceded eight goals in their last two games...
The reason why La Liga Loca tends to lazily phone in everything it does, from its sporting scribblings to not bothering to separate colours from darks in the laundry, is the philosophy that if something is done well, then it just leads to even more work and hassle. Better to perform at a level decent enough to avoid criticism or attention or even a firing, but not enough to attract undue attention. Call it the Spurs Method, perhaps.
Barcelona are discovering that the Spurs Method might be worth trying. The punishment for having won the Treble last season was for the club to be handed even more opportunities to fail.
While Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid have been able to spend the fortnight dithering about on the training pitch or tackling minnows in Norway or Andalusia, Barcelona have been up to Super Cup shenanigans in Tbilisi and Bilbao, in matches where there is very little to win (aside from a couple of minor trophies) but an awful lot to lose before the real season has even started.
Barcelona scraped through against a scintillating Sevilla in a fun European affair, affording Gerard Pique the chance to be caught on camera telling the good people of Madrid to go forth and multiply. Naturally, the topic of conversation centred around conceding four goals, rather than winning a fifth trophy in 2015.
The chatter increased exponentially this weekend, after Barcelona were battered 4-0 by a robust Athletic Bilbao, lead by the ageless Aritz Aduriz. All the caveats of an experimental centre-back pairing of Thomas Vermaelen and Marc Bartra, without the shield of Sergio Busquets, and a general ‘meh-ness’ of the journey back from Georgia, have been cast aside to frantic finger-wagging and tutting.
It’s unthinkable and indignant that a great champion such as Barca committed such a number of individual errors in a final
“It’s unthinkable and indignant that a great champion such as Barça committed such a number of individual errors in a final,” stormed Fernando Polo in Mundo Deportivo.
The ever grumpy Lluís Mascaró, writing in Sport, branded the match “ridiculous”. “The sextet is almost impossible. Winning the Spanish Super Cup would be a miracle,” he sobbed. The pessimism of the writer is shared by the paper’s online readership, nearly two thirds of which feel that the title is already in the hands of the Basque opponents.
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Curiously, though, a very optimistic bunch over on Mundo Deportivo feel the exact opposite: that potentially whacking in five or six is doable on Monday in the Super Cup second leg.
While it's true that there is many an excuse for Barcelona conceding eight goals in the past two games, and the team may well come good on Monday, there'll be one, nagging knot in the tummy ahead of the first proper game of the season. Barcelona will be away from home. Against Athletic Bilbao.
If the Catalan club had simply avoided winning the league in the first place then all this trouble could have been avoided and Barça could have skipped up to Bilbao without the nervous shakes as they near San Mamés. It’s why Spurs players are probably the happiest bunch in the game – a life lesson to be learned.