The rest of the season, aka “Dancing the sardana through a minefield”

So. The Classic win was immense, leaving Barça with a 4-point lead in the Liga standings and culers with much rejoicing. But here’s why you shouldn’t be planning that victory parade yet.

The rest of the season for Barça is a nasty collection of collisions. Let’s have a look, and compare to the RM run in later.

5 April, away to Celta
8 April, home for Almeria
11 April, away to Sevilla
15 April, away to PSG in Champions League
19 April, home for Valencia
21 April, home for PSG in Champions League
26 April, away to Espanyol
29 April, home for Getafe
3 May, away to Cordoba
10 May, home for La Real (we owe them one)
17 May, away to Atleti
24 May, hope for Depor
30 May, Copa final

If, and that’s a significant if, given the fixture congestion, Barça get past PSG, the semi-finals are 5-6 May and 12-13 May, putting them before La Real and Atleti.

Many declared the week that just finished, with City in Champions League and then the Classic as season-defining. No. The season-defining stretch is the two weeks from Celta to Valencia. In a dream world, Barça would get through those 5 matches without dropping points. If that happens, expect me to sprout wings and be able to save money on airfare by flying myself to Barcelona for elections this summer.

Celta will be right after international break, and Sevilla will be in their house, where they are unbeaten this season. Get past them and there’s a resurgent Valencia and of course, PSG waiting. RM has a comparative cake walk.

5 April, home for Granada
8 April, away to Rayo
12 April, home for Eibar
14 April, away to Atleti in Champions League
18 or 19 April, home for Malaga
22 April, home for Atleti in Champions League
25 April, away to Celta
28 April, home for Almeria
2 May, away to Sevilla
9 May, home for Valencia
16 May, away to Espanyol
23 May, home for Getafe

The days of the Liga “gimme” are gone, but I don’t think any culer would rather be looking at Granada, Rayo, Eibar and Malaga in league, than Celta, Almeria, Sevilla and Valencia. I’m sure that conspiracy theorists will be having a field day, but picking lineups that can get the job done while preserving key players for key matches is going to be a nightmare for Enrique. The news that Thomas Vermaelen trained with the squad today is of pretty much zero help, because in a system that bases its magic on its three forwards, you kinda need those dudes all the time.

Messi wants to play all the time anyhow. Suarez is actually benefiting from his ban that essentially makes him a half-season player this year. Neymar is the worry point, because his game doesn’t allow him to rest within matches as Messi’s does. He’s either going fast or he’s ineffective. An effective system that incorporates Pedro will need to be devised, and look for Xavi and Rafinha to play increasing roles as the season progresses.

The only consolation for culers will be that RM is going to drop points as well, but we shouldn’t forget that 8 matches ago, Barça was 4 points down to RM in the standings, and people were saying the Liga was lost. So, moderation in everything with the operative phrase of one match at a time. Personally, I will be feeling better about things if Barça can manage to survive the 4-match stretch from Sevilla to Espanyol. With 5 days rest before “traveling” to Espanyol, that should be a less fraught encounter.

What will happen? If I knew that I would put some money down on something or other. I have some ideas, though:

Wins against Almeria and Celta, though the latter will require some energy, leading to …
A draw against Sevilla in their house
Away draw at PSG
Home win against Valencia
Home win against PSG
Win at Espanyol, but it will be close, fraught and nasssssty
Win at Cordoba
Win against La Real (could be a draw if the Champions League semis happen.)
Loss to Atleti
Win to close out the season against Depor

You math majors will see that if RM runs the table for the 10 remaining matches, and assuming a win vs La Real rather than a draw, that would make RM Liga champions by virtue of the head-to-head goal differential at the tiebreaker. But if they run the table they would, frankly, have accomplished something extraordinary. So are you worried yet? Don’t be. One match at a time and as usual, speculation, caveats and quibbles are welcome.

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In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.

43 Comments

  1. lovell
    March 25, 2015

    Copal del Rey final to be played at Camp Nou.
    HURAY!!!
    Now I know for sure we wont go trophyless

  2. SemperFi...
    March 25, 2015

    I love both these rebellious clubs equally. Both proud. Both enemies of the capital. Expect Basque & Catalan whistling & jeers like never b4 when the Spanish national anthem is played. & possibly some butt cracks flashed towards the cameras, knowing the images will b captured & (later) shown to Madrid.
    Copa del Rey 2015 Final Reportedly
    Will Be Played at Camp Nou, Not
    Bernabeu http://m.bleacherreport.com/articles/2409186-copa-del-rey-2015-final-reportedly-will-be-played-at-camp-nou-not-bernabeu

    • SemperFi...
      March 25, 2015

      Seems fair enough

  3. agar2515
    March 25, 2015

    We’ll be ok against PSG ( Ibra and Verratti first leg) we have their number and the second leg at home.It’s the league that troubles me, cant lose focus.

    Btw Jim Pique surely has to take some responsibility for his rollercoaster dips and peaks in form these last few years. Nothing wrong with calling him out for it.

    He’s (hopefully) finally become the player he was alongside Puyol, supremely intelligent and FOCUSED

    • Jim
      March 25, 2015

      You see I’ve not seen that, Agar. If I see something I call it. At least I think I do. Nobody’s perfect 🙂 I’ve been pretty hard on Ini this year and he, along with Xavi are my favourite players in the side. ( yeah, I do have them ).

      Of course, he’s had some good and some not so good matches but I think he’s been really sound over the last two years. I remember a really ropy two, maybe three games in a row in Pep’s last year. Since then I’ve called him out on a couple of situations where I thought he was to blame but with every game in the last two seasons I’ve asked people to explain what he did wrong in the instances and they’ve not come back. There are a lot of occasions where he’s made to look bad or he’s made a pigs backside of a clearance but he usually mops up his own dirt and crucially they’re not the sort of mistakes which cost us goals. I reckon he was partially at fault for one of the Dutch goals in the WC and Ramos/ Casillas four between them yet Pique is dropped and loads on here calling him for everything. If enough people say it a lot more will believe it. Having said that, watch him sell a couple in the next match. I’m actually amazed he doesn’t get caught in possession or passing out from the back more often. He is technically very gifted and a great passer.

      It’s why I say a partnership is crucial at the back. One CB can’t do it on his own. It’s about the cover they offer each other and their understanding which eventually makes them more than two individuals. That’s why I’m glad he has Mathieu now and I’m starting to think LE is realising the error of his ways – but I’m still not sure. If we’re going to win anything this season though we need those two at the back and if they play they will get better and better. I’ll go out on a limb here and say he’s coming up fast on the rails for next captain when Xavi leaves and that’s from someone who said he couldn’t see that day ever coming – me !

      Still, as I always say. It’s all only opinions.

  4. Inamess
    March 25, 2015

    The five match stretch between Sevilla and Espanyol is going to be intense. Some of the things I will be looking for in this last part of the season:

    1) Given our strength in set pieces and perceived weakness in midfield I expect more teams will abandon their buses and take more chances in attacking us. This will probably mean a Pique-Mathieu partnership against Sevilla, Valencia and both PSG games.

    2) We should take a page from Paco in that draws don’t have that much use for us at this point of the season. Many of these big games will be decided on how well we are on our counterattacks and being wasteful on these could indeed prove costly. We must do all we can to win these games and with that risk should come acceptance of a loss.

    3) A resurgent RM that can run the table is indeed possible now that they are getting back to full strength. They have a run of easy matches until their showdown against our Atletico allies in the Champions League. The outcome of that epic battle will probably dictate their status for the rest of La Liga. It will be brutal, it will be nasty and for us cules the best entertainment since glory days at the Colosseum.

    4) Pedro has indeed gone out of favor but with some rotation expected he should get some chances to leave the club on a high should EPL come calling.

  5. SemperFi...
    March 25, 2015

    Enrique is playing possom. Teams see Barça playing in different ways as a tactic (made possible by the front 3) goading opponents to come out so he can trap them into getting passed drunk by “The Way”. The different styles of playing is 1 more additional part to the system of total football. Just like pressing, possessional football & “tiki taka” passing is part of total football, Enrique added 1 mor component.

    Still a work in progress… This extra dimension makes opponents think twice about pressing Barça with a high line, coz now there r counters to b weary of. Teams hav been dropping off trying to press this Barça completely back in light of this added dimension — which does/should give possessional/tiki taka freedom to b executed without teams trying to press down on it completely, regardless of who’s in midfield – providing that Biscuits is at pivot at the least… Guardiola esque pressing liberates all of Barça’s midfielders with a sense of knowing there’s room for error becaus the ball can/will b retrieved quickly. Its that room for error that pressing provides, that set them at ease when Pep was in charge, & its the same now whenever that high pressure was on show this season – which was most of the time. The 2nd half of Sunday’s Clasico is a pure example of how things changed when they hunted like wolves, in packs

  6. ooga aga
    March 25, 2015

    vermaelen did part of the practice with the team today

  7. luisthebeast
    March 25, 2015

    So from what i saw the last days on Internet world,we won a game that we were not better than them,we were lucky e.t.c.And Cruyff also said some things….How brave is to play an open game like this against the most expensive team in history??With Pep we had the control of the big games.But really tell me Pep.s barca faced such a good team??I believe we cant understand that now there are better teams in europe than before 4 years.Atletiko madrid was a joke back then.E.E was not the same beast.Bayern the same.PSG every season are better.Even in Spain most teams are better now.Its a huge and very difficult job to try and win CL and LA LIGA these days.We are more a normal team now and we try to play the game with different ways and not just with possesion and crazy high pressing.It s logical and dont look far.Guardiola.s Bayern will face the same problems and this season.Tiki taka for me is dead.Now u must play Tak Tak Tak!!Fast!!Two passes and Goal!!

  8. luisthebeast
    March 25, 2015

    And we must be realistic.That expensive team with top class players in every position created against us how much clear chances???The goal,the post,a Benzema shot that Bravo saved and a Bale chance after a corner.We had much more chances.In truth we create much more chances against Big teams that in the past.We could easily score 5 against city in both games and 4-5 against madrid.Are we Mad that we are always sceptical about Lucho.s Barca??YES WE ARE;-)

  9. agar2515
    March 26, 2015

    Here’s a little bit good for a laugh: http://grantland.com/the-triangle/gareth-bale-real-madrid-fans-cristiano-ronaldo/

    “And sure, Madrid won two trophies last season, with Bale scoring the winner in the Copa del Rey. But who cares? There’s a reason Sergio Ramos threw the trophy off the team bus in 2011. Oh, and the 2014 Champions League? La Décima? First, that was against a non-elite opponent in Atlético Madrid, the second-best team in its own city. And second, you might say that Bale scored one of the most important goals in club history with his title-clinching header in extra time …
    … but to that I respond: DID IT WIN THE GAME? The answer is “no,” and the man who scored the winner for Real Madrid looks a little something like this: PICTURE OF RONALDO”

    • March 26, 2015

      That link is actually a really nice piece, that points out the absurdity of RM supporters getting on Gareth Bale for his failings. I came across it earlier in the day yesterday and quite enjoyed it.

    • agar2515
      March 26, 2015

      I mean if you want to call AM a non elite team and say CR scored the winner in the final last year… Ridiculous assertions, the rest was fine but nothing I haven’t read all over Twitter since Bale started to get booed. Grantlands non EPL soccer writing is very “meh” imo

    • March 26, 2015

      That’s basically cranking up the ridiculousness to 9000.
      For me the guy acts like a ridiculous RM fanboy, complete with make-believe “reality” in order to expose the craziness.

      A very good example of the technique is Stephen Colbert(the surname is pronounced Colbe(r) ).

    • Inamess
      March 27, 2015

      Very hard to do satire on the internet because of Poe’s Law. Unfortunately the satirists of yesteryear have turned into today’s trolls.

  10. agar2515
    March 26, 2015

    Seriously Kevin, kudos for how well you write. Staggering that garbage like that^^ I linked to gets nationally published

    • Dreamteam
      March 26, 2015

      I love how he ignores your compliment and parrots that lowest common denominator article as something good.
      Maybe there is some journalist code that you cant ever say a negative word about another’s writing?

      The flex pic of Ronaldo after a PK as it was ALREADY 3-1 as ” Scored the Winner”? Atletico as “non-elite” ? I thought they won the league hmmm?
      Utter tripe.

  11. March 26, 2015

    Kudos to enrique for a job well done, i think we have the liga sewn up, we are definitely back to dictating oppositional play than them doing that to us.

    I think we all learnt a lot during troubled waters, how far we can all go to defend Barcelona and its ideologies and how well we can adapt to everyone’s role during this time. It hasn’t always been roses and it won’t always be, rotation now will be suicidal, just stick to the team that does well.

    Madrid i believe have the sternest and meanest of opponent in the champions league, its mental, they prepare for it everyday, its the only competition they rely on themselves to win, half hearted liga displays before and during that then, the process continues with the semis if they make it through.

    We on the otherhand, have liga sewn up and copa del rey too especially since we have zero trophies in a while and messi playing godly again

    • March 26, 2015

      Wouldn’t be so sure about that. Our remaining schedule is tougher than a T-rex and Atletico might have to focus on the 3rd remaining league spot in order to not miss out on the CL league next season.

  12. lala10
    March 26, 2015

    I fear playing the final at home will jinx us.

  13. March 26, 2015

    Before last weekend I was concerned about the Sevilla away match. Now I have a feeling, may be we will pass through, but it could be Valencia who can give us a shock. That, they are at arms length of Real will make them go for a do or die, and am worried about that match.
    What a hell of two weeks its going to be…

    We havent won anything yet. No liga, no Copa nor CL.

    • March 26, 2015

      That’s the spirit I want to see. Nothing is won yet.

      Playing at Camp Nou for Copa del Rey means only a very well maintained pitch, nothing else, as far as football is concerned.

      Each of Barcelona and Athletic will be given about 39 000 seats, centred on the two Goal areas. The RFEF gets the best 20 000 seats to use and sell as it pleases.

      As far as I have understood, Athletic will get even the home dressing room, due to being the elder club of the two. So no, not a won trophy by far.

  14. March 26, 2015

    Jeepers, our remaining schedule is murderous!

    • Davour
      March 26, 2015

      Yup. And is it even allowed to just offer one day of rest between matches? (Valencia, PSG). What does the union think about this!

      A great challenge, indeed.

    • March 26, 2015

      No, that’s because that round still has no appointed hours.

    • Dreamteam
      March 26, 2015

      People calling for a treble, this is the stuff you gotta go through, those kinds of fixtures

  15. Manish
    March 26, 2015

    Anyone travelling to dc for the Argentina friendly this saturday.. i am planning to drive from NC to DC for the match .. saturday morning.. what’s the parking situation there..

    • Kiel
      March 26, 2015

      If the game is at the Fedex field, there’s plenty parking but getting out after the game is a nightmare!

      I visited a couple of years ago to watch Barca play Man United during a summer tour, and it took me easily an hour to get out of the parking lot…seemed to be the only road in and out…

    • Manish
      March 26, 2015

      Thanks Kiel.. It is at the Fedex field.. will make a decision Saturday morning…

    • Ryan
      March 26, 2015

      That’s the one we lost, but Thiago scored, right? I was there too! I went there via public transit, which was just as chaotic as driving there.

  16. March 26, 2015

    Offtopic.

    Now it is told that one of the pilots seems to have locked out the other and intentionally crashed the flight into Alps, this is quite similar to one of the stories in the brilliant Argentinian movie ‘Wild Tales’. I cant remember any other incident which came directly out of a movie. What a shock?

  17. bcdr
    March 26, 2015

    Anybody watching Spain u21 vs Norway u21?

    They are playing decent. But sometimes passing between Denis-Oliver-Deulofeu is so good!

    Munir subbed off, played a wonderful game. Probably his best game in 2015.

    • bcdr
      March 26, 2015

      So good to see Deulofeu playing! Absolute joy to watch tonight~

  18. lovell
    March 26, 2015

    2-0 to spain u21.
    2-0 to barca.
    Munir and Deulofeu
    Fantastic.
    So much for a ‘dying La Masia’.

  19. luisthebeast
    March 26, 2015

    Wow!!!!I just saw our schedule from 4 to 29 April!!!!8 games this is insane,8 games in 25 days.After a stupid international break.I hope we have the fitness to win all our Liga games.It s hard to win CL with this schedule.Lucky Bayern.

  20. Inamess
    March 26, 2015

    I dedicate this song to Barca’s manager, who has now moved past the Hegelian Philosopher at Bayern and into the second slot at coachworldranking.com

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oox05YGioa0

  21. rileypowell
    September 5, 2015

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    December 12, 2015

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