What a week it has been for FC Barcelona. Qualifying for the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League with a routine demolition of Viktoria Plzen ensured that the week started well, before it ended with frustration.
Frustration with the pitch, with the weather, and ultimately with Athletic Bilbao. The weather conditions definitely played their part in the 2-2 draw and Guardiola may well feel aggrieved about the performance by his side. Javier Mascherano made two uncharacteristic mistakes at the back, and both were punished by Bilbao with goals. At times Gerard Pique looked a little frail in comparison to the sheer power of Fernando Llorente, despite a similar physique and Lionel Messi was once again quiet away from home.
That being said, Messi did score the pivotal equaliser, and when we look back in May, it could be the point that secures a title. Or not, it all depends. Barcelona now find themselves three points behing Real Madrid, and given the miniscule amount of points that the Big Two tend to drop, that small gap is a gulf.
Real demolished Osasuna 7-1 in La Liga’s first midday kickoff and look pretty good as of late. Whether the FIFA virus could hinder them after the return remains to be seen; Barcelona are hoping that Valencia pose as much of a problem to Los Blancos as they did to them earlier in the season.
Guardiola is yet to see the best of his side away from home, and that it a huge cause for concern. Mistakes are being made, and points are being dropped. It is clear that something needs to be done, but the specifics are unknown at this point. A return to form for David Villa and Pedro would be welcomed though...
Victor Valdes saw his unbeaten streak come to an abrupt end against Bilbao, but he continues to excel in goal for the Blaugrana. Carles Puyol is returning to full fitness, perhaps things are not as bad as the Madrid press make them out to be. Those three points could be extinguished after the first Clasico, and even before if Madrid slips up. Whatever the case, it is a monumental battle between two great sides, with two great players, and this past week has seen both Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi hit milestones.
La Pulga celebrated his 200th, 201st and 202nd goal in a Barcelona shirt, while Ronaldo notched his 100th, 101st, 102nd, 103rd and 104th for Real. Time will tell how they rank alongside the all-time greats, but it will be near the top for sure.
Gabriel noted that Barcelona’s problems had gone in his editorial this week, but it will be interesting to see how he reacts to the Bilbao performance:
Lionel Messi's return to form, the addition of Isaac Cuenca, and two big men in the back mean FC Barcelona is still the team to beat in Spain.
This week has also seen the return of Alexis Sanchez to the Blaugrana line-up, but has also seen the return of this site to Twitter and Facebook. A new username of @BlaugranesBarca and a brand new Facebook page; it’s a new era for this site. We are planning to be much more responsive to our fans, and start a new live commentary on the Twitter feed.
I sat through Madrid’s landslide win over Osasuna, and provided updates of sorts, and did the same during Barcelona’s match with Athletic Bilbao. In the future you should expect a prediction game for Barcelona’s matches, perhaps to start in 2012. We want Barca Blaugranes to become the premier Barcelona community on the web, and any suggestions for improvement are welcomed.
In case you missed it last week, Bostjan went to Barcelona for the match against Sevilla, and an extensive photo album can be found here. I’m not a huge fan of architecture or anything like that, but it is plain to see how incredible the city is. Well worth a look.
This upcoming week is a relatively unimportant one for FC Barcelona, but we will still be providing a gamethread at the weekend, with Spain/Barcelona minus Messi taking on England at Wembley. But, if you feel down about the draw, just remember "Tots units fem forca!"