Fatigued Barca could lose it all in a week
AC Milan displayed one of the finest ‘catenaccio’ displays of recent times against no one else but FC Barcelona at the San Siro to put themselves in an excellent position to eliminate the Blaugrana out of this season’s CL with only a scoring draw at the Camp Nou sufficient enough in doing so. The frustrating draw in Italy has raised alarms in the Catalan camp as their season could come to a disappointing and grinding halt in just a week’s time.
Though there was no doubt that the Rossoneri deserve all the plaudits for their incredible defensive performance with a terribly depleted squad, most notably struck by the absence of their best defender Thiago Silva due to injury, it must also be noted that they were aided by a Barcelona squad which for once looked far from their attacking best. The passing that FC Barcelona so proudly and quite rightly so boast of, was dull, slow and worryingly predictable. Messi’s trickery was easily snuffed out by the Milanese defence and Andres Iniesta, for the first time in only God knows when, looked lackluster in a crucial game. Dani Alves lacked the pace and flair that characterizes his game, Alexis, though bright at times , couldn’t put his Serie A knowledge and experience to good use and neither Tello nor Pedro could make up for the absence of David Villa. Fabregas’ performances have reached such a low point that he wasn’t even named on the bench by Guardiola. So what has been the stumbling block in the path of the best team in the world? As hard it is to digest for Barca fans,one must accept the kind of physical pressure that each and every single individual in the team is going through.
Being champions comes at a price as the number of tournaments to be participated in the following season increases. Guardiola’s men have been going through a tremendously busy schedule which started from the high-octane, two-legged ‘El Clasico’ duel in the Supercopa d’Espana, followed by the UEFA Super-cup against Porto. Then came the regular La Liga, CL and Copa del Rey games and their fixture-list extended further with an additional travel to Japan for the Club World Cup. If this was not enough, all Barca players are regular internationals who have to constantly deal with their national duties, most notably the Spanish lot which forms the core of the team.
I have been watching Barca games very closely in the recent weeks and I couldn’t help but notice how ominously fatigued the players looked in the 2-0 wins over Mallorca, Sevilla and Racing Santander along with the 5-3 midweek win over Granada at the Camp Nou. Finally, all the culminated fatigue blew over at the Giuseppe Meazza stadium much to the delight of Massimiliano Allegri’s men.
Looking ahead, Guardiola will have some serious head-scratching to do with Barca playing Athletic Bilbao on Saturday which proves to be yet another highly crucial and taxing game. With barely any rest, the Catalans will have to make sure they play their best game against Milan in the second leg to avoid a disappointing elimination from Europe’s elite club competition. It is a must for some of the senior players like Xavi, Iniesta, Puyol and even Messi to take some much needed rest ahead of that crucial reverse fixture if they have to pull out top drawer stuff. However, even that is a gamble as fielding a young and inexperienced squad against Bilbao could prove costly and yet another draw or loss will once again further the gap between the Catalans and their arch rivals Real Madrid which will surely end Barca’s La Liga campaign. Also, if the aforementioned names do play on Saturday against Marcelo Bielsa’s warriors, it will further add to the physical pressure they are already enduring and could risk an end to the Blaugrana’s European season as well. There is a big possibility that Barcelona could lose both La Liga and the Champions League in the next seven days leaving them with only a Copa del Rey final to look forward to. Just winning the Copa del Rey will be a major disappointment for a team of such class. What will unfold in Barca’s fate only time will tell, but these surely are testing times for the Catalan unit, probably their toughest test of the season. They will have to dig deep like all champions do and overcome all adversities and further their mark as the best club side of all time. Lets wait and watch!