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Barcelona come through tough month but further challenges await

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Ernesto Valverde’s side remain in contention on three fronts

Real Madrid v FC Barcelona - Copa del Rey Semi Final: Second Leg Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Visca Barca! With two wins out of three versus eternal rivals Real Madrid, Barcelona should be able to rest easy… but wait, not just yet. Coming off a 3-0 win at the Santiago Bernabeu, Barcelona will look to replicate the result again on Saturday when they have to face off against Madrid, this time in league play. Let’s take a look at Barcelona’s progress in the current campaign, and look forward to remaining challenges.

Looking backward first, we have to touch on the emphasizing win yesterday. After a first half that was less than stellar, Barcelona turned on the jets in the second half and blitzed Real with three goals. Madrid had several chances throughout the game, but could not capitalize on any of them. The defense looked a bit off color, especially on some set pieces, but ultimately, goals allowed is the only statistic that matters.

Looking toward the offensive end, Ousmane Dembele proved once again why Barcelona shelled out over 100 million euros for the teenager – no stage seems too big for the young Frenchman and his imprint was all over the game. Setting up Suarez’s first and second goals, he proved the “X-Factor” in this Clasico. Some will say that a 3-0 win doesn’t tell the full tale of the match, nonetheless, Barcelona progress to the Copa del Rey final again.

Real Madrid v FC Barcelona - Copa del Rey Semi Final: Second Leg Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Looking ahead, as mentioned before, there is no time to heap laurels in the locker room, Saturday means another emotionally-charged game against Los Blancos, this time looking for quick revenge after the defeat. Not playing yesterday, Barcelona will hopefully be able to rely on the stellar Samuel Umtiti to return to the lineup.

With all of La Liga having played 25 games, Barcelona sit top of the table with 57 points; a seven-point lead over Atletico and nine above Real in the table. If Barcelona are able to emerge victorious again on Saturday, they will hold an astounding 12-point lead over Los Blancos with 12 games remaining, a comfortable gap to say the least.

While Atletico Madrid proved again why they can never be underestimated with their performance against Juventus in the Champions League, their league form this year has been inconsistent at best. Boasting a possible seven-point gap after the week (particularly after Barcelona’s toughest month in February) is something the gaffer and players alike can be proud of.

Real Madrid v FC Barcelona - Copa del Rey Semi Final: Second Leg Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Moving on past Madrid, surely the squad will begin to think about their looming Champions League draw on the 13th of March vs Lyon. Sitting third in Ligue 1, the talented Lyon side showed in the first leg that they should not be overlooked. With one final booked, La Liga in a steady place, the Champions League is the one competition where Barcelona are the most vulnerable. Obviously, the talent in the Champions League contributes to that variability – with teams like Manchester City and PSG among other European heavyweights, Barcelona must put their best foot forward against Lyon. Ernesto Valverde will be wise to make a decision early on his starting XI, knowing that a win at the Camp Nou puts Barcelona in prime position for a treble run.

Essentially, Barcelona just ran through their toughest month thus far in February, but cannot rest easy just yet. After another El Clasico paired with a gigantic clash against Lyon, the rest of the campaign begins to look much easier. Yes, the league is still important, but the emphasis will certainly shift to the Champions League in an effort to avenge last year’s abysmal loss to Rome. Still challenging for three trophies, Barcelona can be proud, but not happy yet. Visca Barca.