Sadly, the football world lost many people and things to 2016. There was the horrific plane crash of the Chapecoense football team, the passing of Ilkay Gundogan (may he continue to rest in peace) and Arsenal’s title challenge going up in flames.
Unfortunately for a large group of people of Spain, it also appears Barca’s ability to see out games didn’t make it to the new year. Not like it is a new problem given their stuttering towards the end of 2016 but many expected the return of Iniesta and the rest gotten over the holidays to boost morale and performance. Needless to say many are already disappointed.
Two games into 2017, no win and further drift away from the top. While some may argue that there is still plenty of time to catch up, here’s why I think Barca need to throw in the towel and forget ever catching up with Real in the La Liga:
Apart from Lionel Messi, Neymar and Suarez – who else?
Couple of months ago, this would have been an inane question to ask. Because how dare you even ask for more right after mentioning three of the world’s greatest players? Are they not obviously all any team in the world needs to win? While the answer to this used to be yes, recent form of the players (except the alien, Messi) has shown that sometimes, more can be needed.
Neymar hasn’t scored in eleven games, Suarez (perhaps starved of his favorite Italian meat) does not seem to know what he is doing and then in midfield, the precision and sharpness that used to stand it out in most games seem to be lacking with Sergio Busquets enduring a terrible run of form and Ivan Rakitic visibly tired.
Simply put: Barcelona lack options and it is hurting them badly. They (still) have a starting eleven anyone would wank to, but a single look on their bench (despite the millions spent) would make anything up go down. Even their league standing.
Match this situation at the Nou Camp with that of the Bernabeu and you will see why the league title is already won. When James whipped in a wicked corner for Casemiro to score his first goal for Real Madrid last weekend against Granada, it meant that every Madrid outfielder beside Fabio Coentrao has scored for the club this season. That’s 20 different goal scorers! BBC, CBN or CNN – whichever is the case, Zidane has been able to always present a unit that can outrun, out-power, out-think and outplay any team. And more importantly, he’s been able to keep everyone happy – a point that leads me to the next point.
Uncertainty, uncertainty and uncertainty!
While all is good and nice at Real Madrid (I mean, Ronaldo is winning personal awards and covering magazines, James and Isco have revealed only death can come between them and the club, they are on a record-equaling run that improves confidence and boost morale etc.), things are quite tense at Barcelona.
Luis Enrique’s future is up in doubt, Lionel Messi is playing cat and dog with the management over his contract renewal and several other players are just not sure if they will survive yet another transfer window at the club. There’s so much uncertainty and though they may borrow a leaf from the biblical Peter to deny this but, without doubt, it has taken a toll on the club. Five of the Barcelona’s last six games ending in 0-0 at first half shows the club’s familiar, absolute dominance in games is lost. And with that goes the fear factor. We don’t need no Chinua Achebe to tell us things are falling apart.
Right after the draw to Villarreal last weekend, Barca’s manager Luis Enrique made a statement that offered a lot more clarity than his future at the Camp Nou: “I am sure we will have the opportunity to fight for the title”, he says. “But it doesn’t depend on us. [Instead], we depend on Real Madrid”.
For Barcelona to stand any chance of launching a title challenge, they need to win and then count on Madrid to stumble. Now, there is nothing to suggest either of this will never happen at some point in the season, but considering the present state of both clubs – it will take some luck (and several trips to medicine men) for both to occur at the same time. Give it up, Barca!
Article written by ‘Shina Peter, follow him on Twitter – @Shina_Pitta