It has been an emotional week for Futbol Club Barcelona. They qualified for the Champions League final, at Wembley no less, at the expense of their eternal rivals, Real Madrid. The El Clasico rivalry had turned to pure animosity and hatred, as Mourinho launched whatever accusations he could find at the Blaugrana, and probably instructed his players to do similar.
Of course, Barcelona are not innocent in this matter, but compared to Madrid, their behaviour has been pretty exemplary.
Also in Tuesday’s final Clasico – until August that is, when there will be two more to contest – there was the surprising return of Eric Abidal. Never mind that Barca won over two legs versus Real Madrid, this guy beat cancer. Just think about that for a second…
Back to league action and this is the first time in weeks that Guardiola will be likely to field a full-strength side, without resting players for an upcoming tie against Real. Of course, they face Levante on Wednesday, but no offence to the resurgent Valencian’s, but they are still no where near Real-quality!
In order to get you ready for this Saturday’s derby match, we have taken the liberty of preparing a two-part preview, with questions on recent topics, and the match itself.
Also, this week, our Editor in Chief, Adi-Oula Sebastian has managed to add two new writers, each of whom, are simply brilliant. Jose A. is rather to the point, as you will read in this preview, and while he couldn't participate in this preview, Lorenzo Franceschi Biacchieria is another top writer, and a Phoenix Suns fan too! He gets better and better.
Barcelona are currently 8 points clear at the top of La Liga with four games left. With Real facing Sevilla, there is a distinct possibility that the Blaugrana will retain the title this weekend. Do you think they will?
Bostjan Cernensek: Well there certainly is a possibility Barca could be crowned champions on Sunday, but I don't think Real Madrid will lose two League games in a row. Mourinho has no need to rest his star players, so he could/should play with his best XI. On the other hand Barcelona also don't have an easy task ahead with the El Derbi Barceloní. The most probable scenario would be that Barcelona will be just one point removed from a three-peat.
Adi-Oula Sebastian: Real Madrid have very little to play for, in addition the morale must be at a new low, so I assume it’s more than possible for the Blaugrana to bag the title this weekend.
Jose Avila: It's a possibility, although they've never won it home for a couple years running.
Arron Duckling: I’m going to put my neck out and say yes. Sevilla are a decent side, and confidence at Real must be near zero about now. Barcelona will have a tough game, but at the Camp Nou, they will surely succeed. I don’t think Real will lose, but a draw is possible, after all, what better time (Clasico apart) to win the league that El Derbi Barceloni.
Gabriel Roberts: I think we'll have to wait another week, as I expect both Barcelona and Madrid to notch victories this weekend.
Paul Udani: Not yet. Los Galacticos can fully concentrate on La Liga now that they're out of the CL (hehe). Plus, Sevilla hasn't been the same side that we've seen in recent years. They've been stripped of their best players through the transfer market and/or the players they have left have grown weary seeing the constant movement.
Shehryar Khan: The result of the Real game is already out and I think we'll win the league on Wednesday.
Espanyol always give Barcelona a tough game. Sunday will obviously be no different, but do you think they can take advantage of Barcelona's poor league form and take points away from the Camp Nou?
PU: They are fully capable of winning in the Camp Nou. As we saw it last week at the Anoeta, Barcelona took their foot off the gas, Sociedad came back to beat them. Should they do the same thing against Espanyol, they will lose.
AOS: The last La Liga victory was a fluke because Pep Guardiola chose to rest a couple of regulars for the Champions League semi-final clash with Real Madrid, don’t expect any major changes against Espanyol. And since it’s a derby, it’ll be a hotly contested game where the Blaugrana will give their best.
JA: No, Espanyol is the city rival, and since it’s a derby they'll fight for the points.
GR: I don't think so. Barca will get up way more for the derby than they did against Real Sociedad last weekend, and take all three points.
SK: No I don't think so. Barcelona would try to make amends for next week and even though I think its time that some of the youngsters are tried, I believe Pep would send out a strong side and try to get maximum points out of this game.
BC: First of all, Espanyol isn't that hot either. They have only won three of their last fourteen games, so compared to them Barcelona is in fantastic form. They did win over Athletic Bilbao a week ago, but Barca are in a different league, especially at the Camp Nou. Like I said with Real Madrid, Barcelona also won't lose two in a row. Pep will surely send out his best team for this heated derby and against that eleven, I can't imagine Espanyol taking home anything.
AD: I agree with Bostjan. Espanyol have been awful recently, and their inexperience is starting to cost them. Barcelona at the Camp Nou is the worst place for a team in poor form, and I expect Sunday to be easier than recent encounters with Espanyol. That said, anything can happen, and you cannot write Espanyol out of this.
Messi has 52 goals this season. He also has 23 assists. Is he the best player ever?
AD: For me, this isn’t even a question. Messi has played consistently, at the very highest level, and succeeded beyond wildest expectations. Sure, Pele and Maradona have won the World Cup, but not even in Brazil, Argentina etc did they put up numbers like this. Also, the state of International competitions was poor, at least in comparison to today’s teams. All you need to do, is look at the type of results they got at the World Cup like 7-3’s, 8-0’s etc, to see the gulf in class was just ridiculous. Today’s game is much more even.
SK: The world's best players, yes, the best ever? Argumentative. Not living in the time of other great players doesn't help our cause but since I've watched football he sure is. Give him 3-4 more years, and he will be.
JA: Best player in Europe at the moment? No doubt. Best ever? Why such a rush? He's barely 23.
GR: At some point, if we keep asking ourselves this question seriously, the answer has to be yes. I've never seen a player with his dribbling ability nor his relentless effort. I've only been following futbol for three years, but he's far and away the best player I've ever seen play.
PU: Not until he leads Argentina to the World Cup crown. That will always hang over his head until he finally does it. That said, he has had one of the most incredible seasons I have seen. Some days, he just drags Barcelona to the finish line by himself.
BC: Lionel Messi is definitely the best player in the world right now and his 2010-11 season will certainly go down as one of, if not the, best single season of all-time. The only"problem" with declaring Messi as the best player ever is his small sample size compared to other players in consideration. Messi has seven season behind him and while he has been simply brilliant in most of them, he is not even close to Maradona's or Pele's twenty seasons. If Messi retires tomorrow he will be "one of the best ever", but if he can keep up this pace for years to come, he will be "THE best ever".
AOS: Too early to tell. In my opinion, he must prove his doubters wrong; the ones that claim he couldn’t have won all these trophies without his teammates Xavi & Iniesta. If Lionel Messi can lead Argentina to a major international trophy, let’s reopen this debate. Until then, it’s too early.
Keep your eyes peeled for Part Two, and make sure you join us tomorrow for our Live Game Thread.
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Follow Shehryar Khan on Twitter @shehryarkhan7