For the first time since the end of the 08/09 season, Barcelona has lost 2 straight games.
After dropping the first leg of the Champions League knockout stage to AC Milan, the Catalan squad were booted from the Copa Del Rey by league rivals, Real Madrid.
Early chances saw a Messi opportunity flash in front of the Madrid goal and further development of slight chances here and there, but its looking more and more like their precision tight passing can only do so much for them. While the game’s possession was clearly in favor of Barcelona, this statistic won’t cut it anymore for the Spanish side. Lacking a certain attacking mindset, the players and coaching staff seem to be content passing the ball around the 18-yard box and hoping to occasionally thread the needle towards net.
We’ve seen this act before. Barca’s similar effort against Milan last week showed similar results. Not to say that either Milan or Madrid “parked the bus” on either occasion; an understanding of the Barcelona blueprint for success has simply been examined and countered.
Missing signs are currently being hung up all over Barcelona for their former golden child, Lionel Messi (it could happen). Silenced in these past 2 matches, Messi has had little opportunity to create those 1 on 1 chances he tends to prefer. Without being able to run at defenders, he is limited to possessing the ball far from net and giving it up to others. Not ideal, but Barca have succeeded on this tactic before. But even those quick give and go’s that we as football fans have all come to enjoy watching have been minimized thanks to several stellar defensive performances. Hard to think Messi will be missing in action for much longer, but at this rate I wouldn’t rule anything out.
Here’s the credit you’re waiting for, not to worry.
Real Madrid’s counter-attack was unstoppable (take notes, Fergie). Any chance they had, Di Maria and Ronaldo could be seen sprinting up the wings with the help of a perfectly placed ball on behalf of either Ozil or Alonso. Quite the opposite from the Barcelona mentality. It was this sort of counter-attack and pace that sealed the W for Madrid.
Add the highlights of Ronaldo’s clinical finishing, Di Maria’s crossing-up of Puyol and Varane’s towering header and it would seem there’s a new sheriff in Spain.
Too bad they’re 16 points behind 1st in La Liga. Regardless, Real Madrid seemed to have found their form at just the right time. They will meet EPL leaders, Manchester United, in the 2nd leg of the Champions League knockout stage next Tuesday, March 5th.
As for Barcelona, things have certainly looked better. The once kings of Europe have never looked smaller and need to regroup quick if they are to reestablish their reign as the world’s most feared club.
Somewhere in Germany, Pep Guardiola is having a light chuckle to himself as he sips from a gold-plated, sangria-filled chalice.