Going by their start to the league this season, Barcelona would have easily settled for a place in the top four. That has not been the case though as the Catalans have grown from strength to strength and are consistently looking like genuine title contenders. It took bold decisions to get the team back to where it belongs, though financially they are still going to struggle for the foreseeable future.
Sacking Ronald Koeman and appointing club legend Xavi Hernandez now appears, was a masterclass, while the transfer dealings in January have fitted well with the club’s ambition. The recent win over Sevilla can only say one thing: Barcelona are going for the title.
This may sound ridiculous, being 12 points behind Real Madrid, but one thing explains their rise to that position – the zeal and calmness brought about by the arrival of Xavi. While the former Spanish international has had crucial support in way of signings, something that Koeman didn’t enjoy, Xavi has managed to bring out the best in players who struggled under Koeman.
Real Madrid aren’t going to drop a lot of points, and Xavi knows it. He intimated the same in his post match comments after the win over Sevilla, courtesy of a superb Pedri goal, which saw them rise to second place.
“We won and we enjoyed ourselves. The atmosphere was extraordinary. And regarding La Liga, as long as the mathematics doesn’t say otherwise we’ll keep fighting. We’re going to try. We’re going to try to win all the games. It’s hard to see Real Madrid dropping points but we’re going to try until the end,” he said.
For starters, Barcelona have a game in hand over the league leaders, Real Madrid and in their recent form, it is hard not to see them close it to nine points once they play the game. With a 14-game unbeaten run in the league, you are sure to find them tipped as favourites on Wincomparator, especially as they have 10 wins in that run.
The harmony in the team at the moment is another great ingredient, and this is what was lacking in the first leg as they suffered bouts of low confidence, which saw them suffer a number of humiliating results, especially in the Champions League. In their recent matches, Barcelona have beaten Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Sevilla, all top four teams and they have brought in the fear factor which lacked under Koeman.
The understanding the players have with Xavi has also turned crucial. The assuredness is there at last and the team is reaping in both defence and attack. In their last eight La Liga matches, for example, they have scored two or more goals in seven; these include four each against Real and Atletico Madrid.
An improving defence has now conceded just one goal in the last five league matches and as things stand, it will be foolhardy to imagine Barcelona can’t put up a serious challenge for the title.