The month of April starts with the continuity of international break making it quite boring for club-football lovers, which most of the football fans are. But for the cules it's going to be one heck of a month afterwards. It will define the overall quality of FC Barcelona, from its squad depth to title hopes, all of it. So let's take a deep look into it and measure the elements and chances of victory.
Crucial Fixture Dates:
Although the month of April offers football pleasure at the end of its first week but from that point onwards it just doesn't stops providing fixtures after fixtures. There is a total of 8 fixtures in April, an average of 2 matches per week. What's more grieving is that it consists of major fixtures, all of them of them in a row that will decide our title hopes in La Liga and Champions League. If we slip in any of the fixtures it would be very difficult to recover as the race is quite near the finish line and any margin of error is unacceptable. Here are all the fixtures:
5 April- Barcelona vs Celta Vigo (Away)
8 April- Barcelona vs Almeria (Home)
11 April- Barcelona vs Sevilla (Away)
15 April- Barcelona vs PSG (Awa)
19 April-Barcelona vs Valencia (Home)
21 April- Barcelona vs PSG (Home)
26 April- Barcelona vs Espanyol (Away)
29 April- Barcelona vs Getafe (Home)
Neither of the fixtures are easy. But Sevilla, Valencia, PSG and Celta pose serious threats to our title hopes. If Barcelona manages to carve out victories against them it would be very easy onwards and a sigh of relief can be taken among cules.
There are 4 major fixtures in April that would decide our title hopes. These include matches against Sevilla, Valencia and PSG. Our first important match comes against Sevilla on 11 April and although we thrashed them at our home, it is quite a different story now. Sevilla is in form (hopefully the kind of form they had before in our previous meeting) and they have currently beaten Villarreal and has qualified for Europa cup quarter finals. On the other hand Valencia has become a serious contender for top four. It has beaten Real Madrid at their home and we marginally won against them in the dying minutes of the match. So it is important that we do not take them lightly and play against them with full focus. PSG is another kind of story. Although we are clear favourites against them, their threat is also good enough to give us something to ponder. Their victory against Chelsea is just a proof of their fighting spirit and will power as they managed a hard-fought victory with just 10 men. It is imperative that we shut them down completely and win against them in the away fixture so that we do not have to fight till death to qualify for semi-finals at Camp Nou.
Rotation would be our greatest weapon against the tiring month of April. Lucho is a big fan of rotation and it has served us very well. Our squad depth is not that great and it absolutely minimizes when we talk about our frontline but it has still played its fine share of energizer in our victories. Our frontline has to play every single match as our team success totally depends on the MSN. Messi has only been rested for about 45 minutes this all season and is going to be in need of some serious rest if he has to perform on the highest level throughout the month. Neymar looks fatigued and the pressing that Suarez offers is certainly tiring for him.
The major policy should be to play constantly rotate against lower and higher teams. Against Getafe, Almeria and Espanyol we should play our frequent benchwarmers like Bartra, Xavi and Rafinha at the expense of starters to rest them. Moreover if the win is secured substitute any two strikers of the MSN and save them for the big game (if the dictator allows). Plus it will also allow us to play 4 midfielders which will itself secure the match. Although against the 4 crucial-continuous fixture we should start with our best XI but later on make the right substitutes to rest the key players for the next game. And at some point Messi would need rest too and I hope Lucho makes that call. By these kind of rotations our best XI would be fresh for big matches. But the international break has given adequate rest to Messi, Mascherano, Suarez, Dani Alves and to an extent Neymar. This could prove fruitful in the near future.
La Liga and CL scenarios:
This month will totally decide our La Liga hopes and UCL to some extent. A total of 10 league fixtures are left and 6 of these fixtures are to be played this month comprising of two major fights against Sevilla and Valencia. This will leave only 4 fixtures in May with a single ugly clash against Atletico. We are currently 4 points ahead of Real and sits at the top of the table. If we carve out victories this month, our league is to great extent saved because it will minimise the chance of destruction caused by any unusual victory especially against Atletico. It will further give us the cushion of 1 loss or a draw.
Champions league will too play a big part in our La Liga. Although our fixtures are quite tough as compared to Real and Atletico but their derby clash is a big hope for us. All of us (FCB, RM, AM) have to play 8 fixtures this month so it's going to be a tiring month for all of us. Moreover the Madrid derby will extract all the juice from our contenders as they will have to solely focus on their UCL clash. Real will be extremely humiliated if they lose to Atletico again whereas Simone will only focus on UCL as he has given up title hopes for La Liga. This will again make Real Madrid more tired and fatigued and unable to comprehensively compete in the league. But something which is quite is amusing is that if Real lose to Atletico in UCL they will lose another trophy and will have only one title to compete for. But this will make Real serious contenders of La Liga and Ronaldo for Golden Shoe. On the flip side if they beat Atletico then they will not get elimination rest and will have to continue playing at the highest level which may lead them other La Liga slumps that will secure our title hopes. Any way it is with Real, success is ours.
The bottom line is that it's going to be nerve-breaking month for us and our players. Our primary goal should be to continue the point difference with Real and qualify for the next round of UCL. Players will have to manage victories all this month to continue the momentum and secure title hopes in all competitions. And if Lucho manages to do that I will salute him and there will be no way in hell that he is going to be sacked. With the kind of turnover he has managed with us, I totally support him now. On another note currently only we and Bayern can emerge as Treble winners (so much for the Barcelona and Messi decline). Visca el Barca.