The Week in Barcelona: The worst since 2003 (sort of)
The week in five words
This is getting very weird.
What went well
The optimistic, positive-personality Barcelona fan will look at the bigger picture of the post-Clásico week, rather than spend the next seven days hugging a pillow and rocking backwards and forwards after what happened in San Sebastian on Saturday.
The 1-0 defeat at Real Sociedad certainly didn’t help matters, but the bigger barrier was hurdled by coming from behind to beat Atlético Madrid in the Champions League quarter-final first leg – a result with greater long-term importance. Oh, for the record, the two yellow cards for Fernando Torres were deserved. The Spaniard was overdosing on Diego Simeone intensity. There is no UEFA-wide conspiracy.
The trauma of the Clásico defeat to Real Madrid could easily have led to a surrendering slump against the combative Rojiblancos, but the Camp Nou club dug in, strapped up their ankles and the victory puts the team in a very strong position in the second leg in the Vicente Calderón. As an extra bonus, Real Madrid’s Wolfsburg boo-boo reduces the chances of two extra Clásicos in the Champions League semi-finals.
The pessimistic, peeved-personality Barca fan is going be freaking out, despite calming head-strokes in Barcelona-based paper Mundo Deportivo soothing that “cushions are there for a reason. They are used when they lose.”
And that’s what happened in Anoeta, which has now become a cursed ground for Barcelona after a failure to win in San Sebastian for six seasons since the 2006/07 campaign. Going into the Clásico, Barcelona had a 10-point lead over Real Madrid and nine on Atlético Madrid. That has now been whittled down to four and three respectively, albeit with a virtual extra point due to Barça’s superior head-to-head record on both, which is how ties are decided in La Liga.
Psychologically, that diminution could be damaging for a team that had been theoretically able to focus all its physical and mental demands on the Champions League, but now has a front reopened in La Liga. Statistically, with just six games to go the title is still safely in Barça’s hands. But everything has just got a little bit more complicated.
Quote of the week
Over to our regular correspondent Gerard Piqué, in response to his arch-enemy Alvaro Arbeloa, who tweeted about how tough it was to beat a team who had 11 men on the pitch. “A player that has played once in 32 does not deserve a response,” posted a peeved Piqué, inadvertently giving a response to the aforementioned player.
The need-to-know facts
- The last time Barcelona lost two league games in a row was October 2014 with defeats to Real Madrid and then Celta Vigo. History repeating a touch.
- It has been over 13 years since Barça contrived to lose three in a row. That bleak time occurred in January 2003, when the triple whammy was Valencia, Celta Vigo and Atlético Madrid.
Video of the week
In a week when Real Sociedad’s victory might be relegated down the webpages of history in comparison to Barcelona’s defeat, here’s another look at a truly splendid effort from Mikel Oyarzabal.
Winner of the week
Important players always look better when bad things happen in their absence. A suspension for Luis Suárez saw the Uruguayan sitting out the San Sebastian clash on Saturday and it meant that the Barcelona attack looked a little, well, toothless.
That was in stark contrast to the performance of Suárez, who popped up with an enormous brace – of the goalscoring variety – against Atlético Madrid, to have some Blaugrana supporters thinking the unthinkable: that it is the former Liverpool man who is currently the most important figure for Barcelona.
Loser of the week
It’s telling that the performance of Barcelona striker Munir has been largely absent from the moans on Sunday, almost as if a flat performance from the 20-year-old was completely the norm. Although the Spaniard was joined in the anonymity stakes by Neymar, it’s Munir who is fighting not to be moved on to pastures new this summer, like so many previously promising forwards in the past.