The End of an Era? Or the beginning of a dynasty? Ever the optimist, I refuse to look at the weekend's surprise defeat to Real Valladolid and jump to the same conclusion that so many pundits and fans have reached: the nonsensical opinion that Barcelona are no longer one of Europe's elite. On current form, I admit their case is hardly watertight, but as the old saying goes, form is temporary and class is permanent. And yes, the club lack some of the intensity that typified the early years of Pep Guardiola's era, but one could argue that the biggest change of all between that glorious period and now doesn't even involve the team or it's tactics.
Far from it, I'd argue that the biggest change has been the mindset of the fans. After intermittent periods of success over the past couple of decades, Barcelona were suddenly challenging on all fronts, year after year, season after season. Often, they would return to the Camp Nou at the season's end with a clutch of trophies, the fruits of their labours.
Now, after seeing their team routinely achieve near perfection, some Culés appear to feel a sense of entitlement -- that the club should be challenging on all fronts and this wouldn't be nearly as bothersome if it was applied with some consistency.
Since Pep's departure, the bar has been raised impossibly high yet I don't recall many holding Guardiola himself to these unrealistic expectations. So if the worst does come to the worst this season, just remember who was in charge the last time we failed to win either La Liga or the UEFA Champions League.
Predict the score of tonight's UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second-leg clash between FC Barcelona and Manchester City by commenting with your prediction below. Best of luck!