The Argentine's influence on the way his side plays continues to grow from deeper writes Tim Stannard, as Barcelona limp closer and closer to defending their La Liga title...
The week in five words
Weirdly quiet. Apart from winning.
What went well
Barcelona beat Betis. And that’s about it.
For one of the very few occasions this season, the Camp Nou collective had a midweek away from the football rat-race to catch up with some thumb-twiddling and navel-gazing. Or course, that week-long break came at a fairly high cost as it resulted from being dumped out of the Champions League by Atlético Madrid.
Japing aside, Barcelona did more than beat Betis. The Catalan club prevailed in a 2-0 victory that had the look of being most perilous indeed with Betis having lost just the once at home in the previous eight games and having almost bettered Real Madrid. After all, any kind of dropped points from Barcelona would have all but cost the league title.
This is perhaps why there might be a small blessing to Barcelona’s huge wobble which lead to their points cushion at the top of La Liga being squished. Had the title been a procession - quite possibly being won on Saturday - then the celebrations may have had all the thrill of picking up a particularly tempting desert on a wedding buffet line.
Messi was the big winner for Barcelona with two gorgeous assists for both goals, to continue the player’s transformation into a Xavi-esque figure.
But now there is something resembling doubt and tension in the air. “The joy will be double if we win in,” noted Gerard Piqué, sensing a fine excuse for a blow-out party.
The first half of Barcelona’s performance against Betis had the more vocal and fretting part of the club’s fandom dreading a return to the dark days of The Slump. The team appeared to be sleep-walking their way into a match that was as must-win as they come, with Luis Enrique admitting that the first half of the game was about “breaking up stones.”
A slip-up from the pre-match pugnacious Antonio Adán for Barcelona’s opener turned out to be huge, as did Betis being down a man for much of the match, after a first-half sending off for Heiko Westermann.
The apparent lethargy possibly resulted from the unusual downtime for the team knocked the internal clock out of rhythm, although if you suggest that the team lacks fitness, Luis Enrique becomes quite irked. Which is always fun to watch.
Quote of the week
“What’s going on? If we don’t win 8-0 it’s not enough?” Luis Enrique discovers for the umpteenth time in his tenure as Barcelona boss, that the higher the team flies, the more ungainly the waddle is when it returns to walking the earth.
The need-to-know facts
- Barcelona have scored 16 goals in their last three La Liga outings, without conceding in any.
- Luis Enrique has won all four of his games against Betis as a manager.
- Luis Suarez has now scored nine goals in his last three league games for Barcelona.
Video/GIF of the week
Winner of the week
Suárez only managed the one measly goal in the win against Betis, which immediately excludes the Uruguayan hot-shot.
Instead, Messi was the big winner for Barcelona with two gorgeous assists for both goals to continue the player’s transformation into a Xavi-esque figure, stuffed to the brim with defence-splitting passes, combined with the ability to score a hat-full of goals should the Argentinean see fit.
Loser of the week
The Barca bosses could probably have lived without more shots of Neymar out and about in night-clubbing mode, this time in London, after the PFA awards. But then again, the footballer was free to spend his downtime however he blooming well pleases, technically speaking.
However, chipping something into the title-winning cause on Saturday would have been handy.