After a 2-0 win over Girona, Barcelona look forward to the next month of their schedule, February. The cold winter month will provide an outlook and an assessment of the squad’s capabilities, and will be critical to their success this year. With three trophies still up for grabs, we’ll take a look at how Barcelona can strengthen their chances for a record third treble.
We’ll start off with La Liga where Barcelona have a five-point lead over second place Atletico Madrid. This year, Barcelona’s primary competition in the league certainly looks to be Atletico. On the other side of Madrid, Real are struggling and look to have already given up on the league – and as for Sevilla, their squad doesn’t have the depth to last an entire campaign (even after beating Barcelona 2-0 in the Copa del Rey first leg).
In February, Barcelona start off the league with a challenging trip to Valencia, where Marcelino and his men possess the skill and determination to put a blow into Barcelona’s campaign. After Valencia, Athletic Bilbao come to town. While Athletic aren’t having the strongest year, they do possess one of the stronger squads in La Liga and can also cause trouble for Barcelona, especially in defense.
Inaki Williams has the pace to change games and certainly take advantage of Gerard Pique’s and Clement Lenglet’s pace. To wrap up the month, Barcelona travel to Valladolid for an easier trip, and end in Sevilla. To ensure that they’re in a good position to focus on the Champions League, Barcelona must look to win all these games, while a loss could be devastating. The difference between a two-point lead and a five-point lead is huge, especially in the second half of the campaign. If Barcelona can win out, paired with an Atletico loss / couple of draws, they’ll be in a great spot to wrap up La Liga early.
Onto the Copa del Rey, where Barcelona’s current prospects are the most bleak. Sevilla handed a heavily rotated Barcelona team a 2-0 whooping at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium. This deficit is something that can certainly be turned around, but the effort shown by this strong Sevilla side led by Wissam Ben Yedder is something to fear. In this second leg, defense will be of the utmost importance – failing to score in the away game means an away goal from Sevilla at the Nou Camp means Barcelona must score four. While not out of the realms of possibility, four goals becomes a much more difficult task. If Barcelona can overturn the two-goal difference today, the treble remains a possibility.
Of course, last but not least, the Champions League. A tournament that Lionel Messi himself assured Barcelona fans was of the utmost importance to this squad. With summer signings brought in to keep legs fresh for the abundance of matches, the Champions League is where those fresh legs must come in.
A young Lyon side must not be overlooked, especially after demonstrating their potency against Premier League champions, Manchester City. Barcelona must prepare for a side that can counterattack with speed, accuracy, and deadliness. With the first leg scheduled for February as well, we will know where this squad stands much more clearly in March.
In order to still be challenging for those three trophies, this stage of the season becomes critical for this squad. With the end of winter nearing, players must be tired, but the constant squad rotation begins to show its benefit during these months. Ernesto Valverde has stood by his rotational strategy and if it fails this year, he might be gone before the start of next.
Battling through the fatigue and winning out in February can provide this Barcelona team with the base that makes the last stage of the year not as difficult, something that is critical to the pursuit of the treble. Can they do it? We’ll find out soon enough – Barcelona need at least three against Sevilla. Visca Barca