Another matchday, another result for Barcelona as they march towards a La Liga title.
Another matchday, and more dropped points for Real Madrid after drawing 0-0 with Real Betis.
That’s a commanding nine-point lead at the top of the table that surely Xavi and his men can’t squander.
Over the arch of this season, last weekend’s loss to Almeria feels like an anomaly.
The story of this campaign has been narrow victories, and consistent results, even when the performances aren’t there.
This sort of season doesn’t happen to Barcelona. Luck and favorable refereeing decisions are the type of things that Real Madrid profit from.
And yet this season the roles seem to be reversed.
Franck Kessie could have been called for a late penalty that surely would have tied things up against Valencia.
After Ronald Araujo’s red card, the team could have fallen apart.
With all the injuries and suspensions lately, there have been plenty of reasons to justify a run of bad results.
And yet, after one off week that saw Barca lose to Manchester United and Almeria, the team is back on track with two pragmatic victories in a row.
They seemingly cannot be derailed with a domestic double there for the taking.
But how to explain a season like this?
Has Barcelona simply been lucky, or are they this good?
Of course, they were incredibly unlucky in Europe to draw the group of death in the Champions League, and then a red-hot Manchester United in the Europa League knockouts.
Putting that aside, the domestic campaign has looked remarkably easy.
It reminds me of the season Real Madrid had in 2017.
In the end, they won the league over Barcelona by three points, but the way they went about it was maddening. Result after result, in spite of poor performances, and leaving it close in what seemed like every single La Liga game.
Real Madrid were the comeback kings (and still are if you look at their recent history in the Champions League).
Barcelona, in contrast, haven’t needed remontadas. They are simply getting the goal they need, relying on a strong and organized defense, and seeing things out.
Are Real Madrid a lucky club, or do they make their luck with the character and sense of belief that is part of their culture?
Is Barcelona taking a page out of their playbook this year?
Maybe Xavi deserves more credit than he is getting. For the tactical and management errors he makes from time to time, he has also been a steady leader. Never gets too low, and from the beginning has had an almost refreshing naivete that this is Barcelona, and therefore we will win.
Compare that to the fatalism of Ronald Koeman, or the lack of personality of Ernesto Valerde.
Inspiring leadership matters. Especially for a team that was dangerously low on confidence.
In the Clasicos, Xavi has been exceptional, with one blemish the exception over five fixtures.
In La Liga, since he took over in November 2021, he has passed the test with flying colors.
Luck is not the kind of thing that can be repeated consistently.
As strange as this season has been, the patterns are undeniable.
Eight goals allowed in 24 matches. The best defensive record in the top five leagues.
Even with significant injuries, a rotating cast of players are finding a way to get the goal to get the win.
Perhaps most important of all, their main rival in Real Madrid is coming undone under the pressure of keeping up.
Whatever you call it, Barcelona is on top, and having one of its best seasons in its history.
The players deserve credit for their fight and their resolve.
Out with the dogma of having to play a certain way. Winning is what matters now.
Especially with so much at stake if they don’t.
Soon, they’ll be able to stick in the dagger, and end Real Madrid’s season for good.
That’s almost as satisfying as winning the league itself.
There’s a lot to like about this new Barcelona.
Even if we don’t recognize it.