Ronald Koeman has laid down the gauntlet for Barcelona as the title race in the 2020-21 La Liga begins to take shape. After 17 rounds of matches, the Blaugrana find themselves in fifth position in the league table.
Barcelona are used to challenging for the title and usually sitting at the top of the table after New Year, but they are currently in an unfamiliar situation. Results haven’t been good while performances haven’t been impressive either.
Koeman’s side has struggled to win consecutive games since mid-December. Barcelona's inconsistency has given their rivals a headstart in the title race. On Sunday, though, the Blaugrana returned to winning ways against Huesca following a disappointing draw at Eibar last week.
A solitary goal from Frenkie de Jong was enough to earn Barcelona all three points in a game that was in every sense a smash-and-grab encounter. Minnows Huesca gave the Blaugrana a run for their money and had their chances to salvage something from the game, but that was eventually not to be.
Barcelona’s inconsistency could be their undoing
Barcelona have won three of the last five league games but have also dropped points against Valencia and Eibar. Koeman has often spoken about the need to maintain consistency, but the players haven't seemed to have taken any heed.
In the aftermath of Sunday’s game, the Dutchman tried to revive talks of the club’s title ambitions but was cautious in his utterances, saying in this regard:
"This month is very important for our aspirations because we have lots of games away from home and, if we win them, I think we can fight," said Koeman, as quoted by Marca.
The Barcelona manager continued in this regard:
"We've seen this weekend that it's not easy to win away from home. If a team (above us) goes on a bad run, the gap can be closed, but it depends on us winning."
Barcelona are ten points off the top
As it stands, Barcelona are behind Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid in the title race, which makes it difficult to achieve their ambitions of reclaiming the La Liga title.
The Blaugrana are currently ten points behind Atletico Madrid and eight adrift of arch-rivals Real Madrid. Although the Blaugrana have a game in hand, Atletico have two.
In what could be one of the tightest title races in Spain in recent years, Barcelona are not looking like legitimate challengers in a largely two-horse race between the two Madrid clubs.
Koeman is counting on Barcelona's rivals to drop points, but it is clear to see that confidence is very low at the Camp Nou at the moment. Also, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid have been in imperious form in recent weeks, but Barcelona are yet to sort out their inconsistencies.
That is why despite the win against Huesca, a lot of questions still remain for Ronald Koeman and his beleaguered charges.Published 04 Jan 2021, 13:30 IST