FC Barcelona will write the latest chapter in their 2015-16 campaign tomorrow when they travel to the Spanish capital for the second time this season, this time to face Getafe CF at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez. The Blaugrana will enter the match after a shocking plot twist unfolded before our very eyes in midweek; the mighty Barca, drawing a blank against tiny CF Villanovense.
The Copa del Rey first-leg tie caught many by surprise, and lent further credence to the belief that Luis Enrique’s side have taken a sizeable step back in the previous four months. The all-conquering footballing maquina that made short work of all who opposed is spluttering, if not broken entirely. Or so the story goes, anyway.
What goes up must come down after all – and while some media outlets would have you believe that the footballing Gods are in cahoots over this sudden fall from grace, the reality is that Barcelona remains competitive in spite of their troubles, and are perfectly placed to gain momentum as the season progresses. Think of the past few months as an epilogue of sorts, setting the scene for all manner of future events.
The effects of the FIFA transfer ban, an injury to Lionel Messi and general struggles with squad depth, all paving the way for future story arcs: Neymar’s ascension to superstardom, the integration of Arda Turan and of course, the return of the prodigal son…we have all this to look forward to, and yet there are some who continue to focus on the negatives? Who suggest that the future is bleak, and desolate?
Far from it; as Barcelona are merely getting warmed up – and in fact, I think they might just start moving forward tomorrow, starting with Getafe in deepest, darkest Madrid…
In recent weeks, FC Barcelona have functioned as a collection of parts, scraping away at opposing defences with mixed results. Tomorrow, with the return of Andres Iniesta, Barcelona will regain their maestro, their conductor – their scalpel, responsible for dissecting defences with surgical precision. And this writer couldn’t be any happier if he tried; with both Messi and Iniesta out injured, the Blaugrana have suffered. One could be forgiven for even forgetting that this was a Barcelona team at all.
No Messi. No Iniesta. No Xavi.
In some respects, that serves to accentuate the new philosophy that we have welcomed in under the guidance of Luis Enrique; a more direct approach – less tiki-taka, more…mainstream? Whatever it may be, it has been apparent that this club simply cannot function on any extreme side of the scale anymore; just as Guardiola’s latter day pursuit of total possession failed, Barcelona’s brief detour into being "just like everyone else" was ill-advised, and will ultimately be short-lived.
With Iniesta back, we need to recalibrate our style, and focus back on the basics that made us so great – invincible even – at the end of last season. Retention of possession is key, but must not be confused with the concept of "control", something that has been virtually foreign to us in the past month but is of paramount importance.
On the offensive side of the ball there has routinely been little patience, little discipline and little focus. The consequences have been far-reaching and predictably dire. Defensively, we are routinely caught out of position with our hand in the proverbial cookie jar.
Out-numbered. Out-thought. Out-classed.
No longer, he says. Iniesta is a game-changer, in the sense that he provides an air of calm and a consistency that we have been so sorely lacking. While in recent fixtures, we have felt the urge – an uncontrollable desire – to simply throw numbers at the problem and to make the breakthrough, Iniesta’s presence placates that. All we need now is one well-timed run, plus one of his trademark passes and the problem is solved all the same.
More thought, more intelligence – refinement and control.
It’ll be like watching the old Barcelona again. You know, the normal Barcelona.
Claudio Bravo in goal, probably keeping a clean sheet. Gerard Pique and possibly Marc Bartra bringing a certain elegance to the heart of our defense. Dani Alves and Jordi Alba adding a different dimension to our offense from either flank with Sergio Busquets serving as the metronome at pivote.
Ivan Rakitic, the midfield workhorse liberated to find space and time in which to thrive; Iniesta working as the eyes – and brains of the operation. Luis Suarez, providing that clinical edge in front of goal; Munir, showing promise and of course, Neymar, providing that spark, leading the charge.
Maybe I’m overbilling it, or maybe, just maybe, I’ll be right…
Continuity is the key word for Getafe head coach, Fran Escriba, headed into this game as he knows that he can ill-afford to rock the boat, roll the dice and gamble on a new tactical innovation mere days before he takes on the reigning La Liga and European champions.
Carlos Vigaray is suspended after receiving a red card last week, but that’s probably for the best anyway; he gave away two of the three penalties in Getafe’s landslide defeat to Sevilla at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan. Neymar would probably fancy his chances, but when was the last time that Barcelona got a favourable call from a referee in Madrid?
FC Barcelona 6-0 Getafe CF – 28th April 2015 – La Liga
Did I ever tell you how much I miss Lionel Messi? He scored twice and grabbed an assist in this one. Xavi scored and assisted for good measure too, with the other goals coming from Luis Suarez (2) and Neymar.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Bravo; Alves, Pique, Bartra, Alba; Busquets, Rakitic, Iniesta; Munir, Suarez, Neymar
Getafe (4-2-3-1): Guaita; Suarez, Alexis, Vergini, Lago; Lacen, Rodriguez; Pedro Leon, Sarabia, Victor; Scepovic
One win in their last five away from home for Barcelona. That needs to change, and where better to start than in Madrid? 4-0 Barca.