The defeat on the weekend against Valencia didn't end title hopes for Barça
Surely, at the moment, it doesn't look too good. Barça haven't won in four La Liga games and lost the whole margin they had on pursuers Atlético and Real Madrid, after Sunday's defeat at Camp Nou against Valencia. Yet, the Blaugranas are still first in the table and looking good for the title. Because all streaks end and because Barcelona have got winning in their DNA, there are many reasons to stay optimistic about Luis Enrique's chances to make it two in a row. Here are five of them:
The immense deception of not going through to the Champions League semi-finals has now be digested, and Barça can focus on La Liga, avoiding a loss of mental and physical energy in top level games in which pressure is very hard to get away from. It is not the case for their two pursuers, Atlético and Real Madrid. Both Madrid clubs will have two tough games to play between the end of April and the beginning of May, or between La Liga's Day 35 and La Liga's Day 37, as they're both still involved in the competition. The Colchoneros will face Pep Guardiola's Bayern and Real Madrid will face Pellegrini's Manchester City.
Moreover, the schedule in La Liga remaining games is very different between Barça and their two opponents. While the Blaugranas will host Sporting and Espanyol and visit Deportivo, Real Betis and Granada, Real Madrid will have to beat Villarreal and Valencia in the Bernabéu, and visit Rayo, Real Sociedad and Deportivo. As for Diego Simeone's men, they will have to visit Athletic and Levante, and host Málaga, Rayo and Celta. According to those fixtures and given Barça's advantage in terms of particular goal difference, Barça have the 'easiest' way to the title.
No team in Spain has been more succesful than Barça since Guardiola took over in 2008. 3 Champions League trophies, 3 Clubs' World Cups, 3 Spanish Super Cups, 3 Copa del Rey trophies and 4 La Liga titles. Last year, Luis Enrique made a simiar performance to Guardiola's first year at Camp Nou, as he won 5 of the 6 possible trophies, only losing Spanish Super Cup against Athletic Club. With players of experience like Iniesta, Piqué, Mascherano, Messi, Suárez or Busquets, it is hard to imagine that the Blaugranas have lost their composure after 3 losses in a row. Great clubs get up, and great players make the difference when adversity is at its highest. Maybe that is really what Barça need in the end: a tighter competition to win it in an even more spectacular fashion.
The Game they Play
Last night's defeat was a surprise to everyone, not only because it was the third consecutive loss in La Liga this season for Barça, but also because it happened in a game that Barça dominated all along the 90 minutes, playing great attacking football, just missing more luck to finish well their chances, which was reflected by Piqué's incredible miss in the last minutes of the match. Barça haven't lost their culture of good football overnight, and Luis Enrique is an intelligent man, he will bounce back just like the rest of the team and insist on this possession game that was inefficient against Valencia, but so lethal in 24 of the 33 La Liga games this season.
It has been pointed out by a few observers that maybe Barça shouldn't only rely on Messi, Suárez and Neymar to score goals, as a performance drop of one of the three, or the three at the same time, might mean a negative result at the end of the game. Still, the season has been long and a short period of bad performances seems logical regarding the intensity required for each competition. Now that Barça are out of the Champions League, and with no more International break until the end of the season, the magical trio can fully focus on putting the ball in the back of the net. Moreover, Messi scored his 500th goal with Barça against Valencia on the weekend. An impressive figure that might have occupied his mind for a while, explaining his struggle to score goals in April. With that special number out of his head, he can go back to what he usually does: being the best player in the world. No doubt that Neymar and Suárez will follow.
Obviously, beating records doesn't necesarily mean winning it all. To make an analogy with the world of basketball and NBA, the Golden State Warriors have put their name above the Bulls' in the history of the most successful NBA teams in the regular season, but could still be knocked out of the Playoffs and end up winning nothing. But still, their incredible season lets very little room to such an upset. Same goes with Barça. The Blaugranas have had a blast this season, and Luis Enrique beat Pep Guardiola's record for the longest unbeaten streak at the club. This is more than just anecdotic, and it might be the main reason why the title shouldn't escape from Barcelona's hands. An historic season can only be historic if victory is obtained at the end. And we know Barça loves making history.