Have Barcelona got even better?
Published: 02.01.13 / Written by: David Gold
If it was not for the most desperate misfortune to have struck their manager, Tito Vilanova, Barcelona’s players could be sleeping rather easily at night during this current winter break.
The Catalans have played 17 games in La Liga, won 16 and drawn one, at home to Real Madrid. They are cruising through the Spanish Cup whilst Real Madrid fight to stay in it, and despite losing at Celtic in the Champions League, they are through as group winners to face AC Milan in the next round. They may have lost in the Spanish Super Cup, but you can be sure Xavi et al would have gladly handed the trophy to Real Madrid had they been offered the position they are currently in half way through the season.
16 points clear of Real Madrid, the title race appears over already. Rarely if ever does a team recover from a deficit half that size at this stage of the season. Madrid do not look like putting together the kind of form to even match Barcelona’s points tally for the second half of the season, either. It all seems so easy for Barcelona. Atletico Madrid are in second place, nine points adrift, and they were swatted aside 4-1 at the Camp Nou just a couple of weeks ago.
So is this Barcelona side even better than the one under Pep Guardiola? It is probably too early to say, but they certainly seem to be at present. Their slightly more direct style of play appears to have got even more out of the array of remarkable talents at Vilanova’s disposal. Their form is remarkable, Leo Messi continues to get better and better, and the youngsters such as Thiago Alcantara and Pedro are just as impressive as their predecessors. Not even David Villa, the best centre forward of recent years in world football, can get into the team regularly.
The way they are playing, it would be no surprise to see Barcelona go the whole season unbeaten. The great AC Milan, Ajax, Arsenal and Juventus teams who have all achieved that rare glory in the last two decades have all been inferior to this current Barcelona side. They certainly are capable. And with 49 points out of a possible 51 so far, they are well on course to break the points record of 100 set by Real Madrid last season. With 114 available, who would bet against them picking up 110 or more?
The exertions of the Champions League will surely be felt at some point, although Barcelona are more than capable of managing to perform brilliantly in both simultaneously. The Catalans have sometimes stuttered around February, so it will be interesting to see if that happens again this season. You feel however, that last season’s failure to win the league has stung Barcelona into life once again. This could be their best season yet.