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For the first time this season, Barcelona gave us hope

We can now believe. A little.

FC Barcelona v RCD Espanyol - La Liga Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

I had to watch it again, because I hadn't seen it in a long time.

There it is: the best team in the world.

Barcelona put on a marvelous performance on Sunday against Espanyol, to close the gap on Real Madrid to three points in the La Liga title race (although Madrid do have a game in hand) and provide us, for the first time all season, with a sentiment vitally needed: hope.

Hope that this team can actually be what it has been for two years under Luis Enrique.

Hope that the 'MSN' trio can come together and provide a spectacular performance in a key game against a local rival that Blaugrana fans hate.

Hope that midfield and defense can provide support to the trio, and not only watch them try and create everything.

Hope that this mediocre season can be turned around and lead to titles.

What we saw against Espanyol was the real Barça, a team that absolutely dominated every single aspect of the game, especially in the tactical side, and had its biggest stars in truly inspired nights. Lionel Messi and Andrés Iniesta gave us vintage nights that make them two of the greatest players ever.

But here's the thing: Messi and Iniesta didn't carry the whole team to a victory. They were the standouts on a really strong collective performance. This wasn't a mediocre performance with a scoreline flattered by the genius of individual stars with more talent than everyone else. This was a dominant display from the entire team, and the individual brilliance was the result of team play, not the other way around, which has happened a lot this season.

I am a crazy person, and I really do believe from the bottom of my heart that spectacular performances and unbeaten streaks at the first half of the season generally lead to disaster in the final months. Just look at Barça's first season under Enrique: he was supposed to be sacked in December, the team was a complete mess, then a magical night at Camp Nou against Atlético Madrid changed everything. The perfect tactical way of putting the 'MSN' together was found, and the rest is history.

Then look at last season: insane start, even without Messi for two months (Neymar and Suárez were unreal), a 39-game unbeaten streak, some of the best football we had ever seen from Barça, maybe better than the Pep Guardiola days, and then what happened? The streak was ended with a loss in El Clásico, the Champions League was over 10 days later, and a historical collapse in La Liga didn't cost the title because Luis Suárez scored 273 goals in the final five games and single-handedly won Barça the trophy in the most spectacular phase of his career until now.

This season, more of the same: mediocre team play, major reliance on the 'MSN' brilliance, injuries, poor rotation choices, bad results at home, a horrible game at Anoeta. And then, in the last league game of 2016, the team as whole woke up, put on a show and really showed us that it can still produce magic on the pitch. The second half of the season is coming, and that performance on Sunday just gave me a lot of hope and a really good feeling for what's coming up.

I don't know about you, but this is looking a hell of a lot like Luis Enrique's first season.

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