How far is too far? With a surprising draw at the Cornellà-el Prat on Sunday, FC Barcelona fell further behind their arch-rivals Real Madrid, and the five point gap has been deemed by some as insurmountable. Even the most optimistic Barcelona fan would have to accept that Real Madrid are undisputedly the favourites for La Liga, but that isn’t the most disappointing part of the weekend’s events. Undoubtedly, that was the performance by the players.
On more than one occasion this season we have reacted to a poor result by blaming Pep Guardiola. For example, there was the match at the Mestalla where Barcelona were played off the park by the ferocious combination of Jordi Alba and Jeremy Mathieu on the left-hand side. That particular duo reaped the benefits of the space left behind by the 3-4-3 – which admittedly was in its infancy at the time – all the while defending the same left flank. That was perhaps the most obvious instance of a mistake by Pep, although he had nothing to do with it yesterday.
Well, maybe he could have reacted a little better to the clear change in momentum around the 60 minute mark, but Pedro was that reaction. Pedro came onto the pitch with a sense of urgency, an undeniable enthusiasm for the game, but it was not enough to lift his teammates, and the game slipped away. Aside from that, Guardiola cannot take too much of the blame for these dropped points.
Unfortunately Andreu Fontas remained rooted to the bench, so we can’t pick fun at our favourite scapegoat, nor can I shift the blame onto Seydou Keita, even if the goal took place immediately after he was introduced to play for Cesc Fabregas. Instead, it leaves me with no choice but to blaspheme: personally, I blame Lionel Messi. Not only that, but I blame Xavi Hernandez, I blame Andres Iniesta, ah, what the hell; let’s blame Carles Puyol as well.
Barcelona needed a big performance or two; it barely mustered a response from the best players in the team. Who knows why, it could be for a number of reasons. Messi supposedly had the flu earlier in the week, maybe it resurfaced here. Andres Iniesta was injured prior to the match; I am a little hesitant to suggest any other reasons for his sub-standard performance, while Xavi misplaced passes like it was going out of fashion. Credit must go to Espanyol and Mauro Pochettino especially for their tactics, and the execution of that gameplan was flawless. At the same time, I can’t help but wonder whether Xavi and Messi were thinking a little too much about tonight and the Ballon D’Or in general...
For the first time in Pep Guardiola’s reign, Barcelona’s fate in terms of the league title is no longer in their hands.
On a side note, you may have already noticed but we have added another writer to our team. BrodieBomber took a look at the upcoming Ballon D'Or and presented a case for Xavi. It was a superb article, make sure you take a look.