2011-2012 has been a very successful season for FC Barcelona overall and one that marked the end of an era – the Pep Guardiola era – but probably not the end of the club’s cycle of unprecedented success. It was a season marred by injuries, diseases, some bad luck, but also by the squad’s trademark fantastic football and fighting spirit. In the end, four trophies is an excellent tally, even if the two most desired ones escaped – La Liga and the Champions League.
It was yet another season to remember for all the Barcelona fans around the world.
One of the main goals of the season was to win La Liga for the fourth time in a row, but it wasn’t meant to be. Barcelona were devastating at home, losing only five points at Camp Nou all season, but their inconsistent away performances saw them quickly lose ground to Real Madrid, who collected 100 points – a La Liga all-time record.
A late surge of consecutive wins made Barcelona close the gap from 10 to 4 points, but it was to no avail as a Cristiano Ronaldo goal defeated Barcelona at Camp Nou, taking the gap to 7 points. In the end, Barcelona finished with 91 points, nine behind their eternal rivals and far from the title.
Lionel Messi beat the all-time record for most goals in one La Liga season with 50, but even the world’s best player heroics were not enough to get the league title. An unfortunate series of niggles to key players – Iniesta, Xavi, Pedro, Sanchez… – and the long term injuries/diseases of the likes of Éric Abidal and David Villa seriously hindered the team’s title challenge. While Barcelona blew opponent after opponent at home, their away form was just too poor to contend with such a strong Real Madrid side.
In the end, 91 points and 114 goals were simply not enough to win the fourth consecutive league title, but were by no means a bad season either.
Becoming the first team to defend the Champions League title was the club’s biggest goal for the season and it all seemed to be going smoothly until the semifinals. Barcelona easily topped their group with only one draw in six matches against Milan, BATE Borisov and Viktoria Plzen, easily dismissed Bayer Leverkusen and didn’t struggle too much against Milan either. Lionel Messi scored 14 goals to establish a new record for most goals in a Champions League season, five of which in the same match against Bayer Leverkusen.
Going into the semifinals against what many considered the weakest Chelsea side in years, only a very optimistic Chelsea fan would have predicted Barcelona not to make the finals. But the unthinkable happened, with Barcelona’s wastefulness in front of goal and Chelsea’s heroic performance propelled the London outfit to the final, with Torres of all players putting the final nail in Barcelona’s coffin at Camp Nou.
An entire season’s work was destroyed in two matches where things just didn’t go Barcelona’s way and the season’s biggest goal was missed, but overall the club still have reasons to be proud of their performance in this competition.
The league and the Champions League escaped, but all other four Cups were successfully secured, which still made for a pretty successful season. It all started in the middle of August with a two-legged Spanish Super Cup featuring none other than Barcelona and Real Madrid. After a short pre-season, contrasting with Real Madrid’s much better and longer one, Barcelona fans weren’t particularly hopeful for the Super Cup. But despite being dominated in the first leg in Madrid, Barcelona somehow managed to get a 2-2 draw, courtesy of a sublime David Villa goal that completely changed the momentum.
In the second leg, the score 2-2 before Cesc Fabregas came into the match to make his debut with the Barcelona jersey and participate in the winning goal, scored by none other than Lionel Messi to give Barca the 10th Spanish Super Cup of their history.
One week later it was time for the European Super Cup, against then Europa League holders FC Porto. The game was very even until a mistake from Guarin saw Messi score the first goal. It was all Barcelona from then on especially with Porto down to 10 and then 9 men; Cesc Fabregas came into the match and clinched victory with the second goal of the night.
In December, it was time for the Club World Cup, probably the easiest title of the Guardiola era. Both Al-Saad and Santos were easily dismissed with 4-0 scorelines with Barcelona barely getting out of second gear in both matches. The success didn’t come without a cost though, with David Villa getting a season-ending injury in the semifinals, which cost the club a lot in the league and Champions League.
In the Copa del Rey, Barcelona dismissed Hospitalet, Osasuna, Real Madrid and Valencia over two legs before beating Athletic Bilbao 3-0 in the final, in a thoroughly dominant campaign that saw Pep Guardiola win his second Copa in four years, thus winning at least two of every “big six” trophies in his four year tenure at Barca.
As far as Cups and Super Cups are concerned, it was a perfect season for Barcelona.
Player of the Season
It’s really a no-brainer. With 73 goals and 30 assists, Lionel Messi had the best season in history from a statistical point of view, and in-match observation clearly confirms these statistics. The Argentine prodigy showed once again why he is regarded as this generation’s greatest player, beating all sorts of records and spreading his magic in the fields of La Liga and Europe.