Ever since the arrival of Pep Guardiola, FC Barcelona have seen their graph move in one direction ai??i?? upwards. With two Champions Leagues, three back-to-back La Liga titles and more importantly their mesmerising style of football, the Catalans have earned themselves the tag of one of the best teams in history. However, till a few months back, the gap between Barcelona and rest looked unbridgeable, but not anymore.

Of late the Catalan express looks jaded and a bit out of steam. Perhaps this can be attributed to the unavailability of a host of important team members but to remain etched in history, teams have to overcome such mundane obstacles. Last season, Barca won the La Liga and Champions League and went on to acquire Cesc Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez ai??i?? two of the hottest prospects in world football currently. Fans and critics might be of the opinion that the team has gone from strength to strength, however, the fact remains that the Barca express never really got going this term.

Xavi - The Midfield MaestroRecurrent injuries and fatigue are finally taking their toll?

Pepai??i??s first term with the Barca senior team didnai??i??t quite have the start theyai??i??d have loved. Barcelona lost their first match to lowly Numancia and drew the second against Racing, at home. However, the team looked a much more cohesive unit from their third outing against Gijon. And the team looked somewhat similar in subsequent seasons as well. 2011-12 is an exception though. The following table gives a statistical idea about the team, after Round 12, this season:

Year

Win

Draw

Loss

Goals Scored

Goals Against

Points

Points Dropped

2008-09

9

2

1

37

9

29

7

2009-10

9

3

0

30

8

30

6

2010-11

10

1

1

33

8

31

5

2011-12*

7

4

0

34

6

25

8

*FC Barcelonaai??i??s first game against Malaga was called-off.

Statistics hide more than they reveal. The above table surely shows that at this stage this is perhaps the second best result the team has achieved after a historic 2008-09. However the point of concern might just be the number of draws. Despite being unbeaten in domestic and European competitions (along with Benfica), Barca has also dropped the most number of points, at this stage, this season. It could have been more had the first match been played ai??i?? away against a resurgent Malaga. A mind-boggling Manita against Villarreal, which also saw Pepai??i??s famous 3-4-3 with only one dedicated defender and goal fests against Atletico Madrid (5), Osasuna (8) and Mallorca (5) might just give fans the impression that everything is fine at the Camp Nou, but the fact remains that the gap, that once seemed unassailable, has been bridged to a large extent. Oppositions are as wary as ever but they are no longer intimidated. Recent matches against Valencia and Bilbao bear testimony to that.

Barcelonaai??i??s closest competitor in Spain and perhaps in Europe too, Real Madrid, have finally come out of the shadow of their bitter rivals. Perhaps Madrid is the team with the best squad on paper, which makes it all the more difficult for the Catalans. A look into similar piece of stats for Real, might just present a better comprehension:

Year

Win

Draw

Loss

Goals Scored

Goals Against

Points

Points Dropped

2008-09

8

2

2

29

17

26

10

2009-10

9

1

2

27

9

28

8

2010-11

10

2

0

33

7

32

4

2011-12*

9

1

1

39

8

28

5

* Real Madridai??i??s first game against Bilbao was called-off.

Over the last few seasons, the capital side underwent a metamorphosis ai??i?? on and off the pitch. More importantly, under Jose Mourinhoai??i??s tutelage the team is at par with Barca. It might not be in terms of the quality of football they offer, but certainly in terms of the result that they gather. Real Madrid is now a well-oiled machine, cold, ruthless and emotionless. The striking feature here is Madridai??i??s determination not to drop points and to get better progressively. Not only have they scored more but also dropped fewer points of late. In Spain, where the competition is somewhat limited to the two big guns, dropping fewer points become a huge criteria in winning the domestic league.

Mourinho’sAi??Madrid is an extremely cohesive and lethal unit now.

Injuries are a part and parcel of the game and every team has its fair share. However, dealing with them and maintaining the tempo is perhaps what differentiates the champions from the best loser. Of late, Real Madridai??i??s nucleus has managed to keep them fit and with quality players like Sahin, Callejon, Varane, Coentrao et al as mere embellishments, the sky is the limit. Barcelona on the other hand has had injuries to key personnel. The fatigue of constantly playing more than fifty competitive games each season and extensive travelling is finally taking its toll. The lack of a proper central-defensive duo is yet another reason. With Puyolai??i??s constant injury problems, Mascherano and Busquets have been employed to do the defensive duties. Despite the fact that these two have performed their duties to the best of their abilities, sometimes they just fall short of what youai??i??d expect from Carles or for that matter any world-class centre-back. A defender at Barcelona is perhaps the need of the hour as itai??i??s would be suicidal to expect Masche, Busi and Fontas to deal with the constant onslaught by the likes of Ronaldo, Pato, Rooney and others.

Of late itai??i??s been noticeable that the Catalans arenai??i??t as effective against physical sides as they are against those which arenai??i??t. A highly organized approach, rock-solid defense, less space offered, physically brutal players and lightening fast counter attack are perhaps a few things a team would need to go toe-to-toe with the mighty Barcelona. Very recently, an extremely dogged Bilbao proved this at the San Mames. Perhaps the approach adopted by Bielsaai??i??s men is the only known answer to Barcaai??i??s tiki-taka. Jose Mourinho employed similar tactics and managed to keep Barca at bay at the Camp Nou. With a better comprehension of the Barca style of football and their players and with superior quality players at his disposal in the Spanish capital, the Portuguese manager has all he needs to stop the Barcelona juggernaut.

Barcelona struggles against physical sides

The question however remains ai??i?? Will Jose Mourinhoai??i??s Real Madrid be able to tame Guardiolaai??i??s Barcelona? Partisan Cules might say NO. Blancos might just believe. But your guess is as good as ours. Let time and the teams do the talking. 10th December, 2011 will give us an answer.

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4 Responses to “FC Barcelona’s Corner: Is The Catalan Express Running Out Of Steam?”

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  1. It should end. The style Barca adopt is not a new one, but it is a revival of a old style of play, that has been refined for the pace of today’s football. But, every style and every player chosen for a style has/have their loop holes. Exploiting those is done once you study the opposition, which a lot of teams have done lately. So, hopefully, the Barca juggernaut will in fact end. :)

  2. Shivam, and i love my CFC says:

    They aren’ t running out of steam…they’ ve already run out of it. Barcelona’s Dominance is over. And yes, 10th dec 2011 would tell you that.