Real Sociedad loss was the turning point for Barcelona
Barcelona, Feb 10 Since the painful 0-1 defeat at Anoeta Stadium at the hands of Real Sociedad earlier this year, FC Barcelona have started to race for the top of Spanish La Liga's standings at breakneck speed. The Real Sociedad loss, sustained by Barca in the very first game of 2015 (La Liga's 17th round), represented a turning point in the team's general performance.
The Blaugrana achieved nine consecutive victories, including four triumphs over Elche and Atletico Madrid in both legs of the Copa Del Rey's round of 16 and quarterfinals. Most importantly, Barca played those nine matches with a certain festive spirit, which was reflected in the statistics.
The Catalan team scored a total of 34 goals, with an average of 3.8 goals per match (4.2 goals per match when only considering the La Liga average). Before the defeat against Real Sociedad, the team coached by Luis Enrique had scored 41 goals in 16 rounds, an average of 2.4 goals per match, or around half of last month's goal average.
Since then, with Lionel Messi and Neymar leading the squad, Barca started beating their rivals, showing a huge appetite for victory. Barca's technique now depends on beginning games with full pressure from the end of the pitch and besieging the rival's penalty area through a dynamic and direct performance.
During Sunday's match against Athletic, midfielders Xavi Hernandez and Ivan Rakitic were the least involved players, meaning that the team now prefers to exploit open spaces and use the advantage of making quick transitions.
Barca's new style has completely transformed the team's playing philosophy. Instead of relying on a static, predictable pace, the Blaugrana now move the ball at lightning speed, which allows them to be the only Spanish team with the option of winning the 'treble,' (the coveted triad comprising the UEFA Champions League, La Liga and Copa del Rey championships).
On the other hand, direct rivals Real Madrid and Atletico have only won four of their five most-recent games: the former lost at the Vicente Calderon and the latter was defeated at the Camp Nou.
Also, both teams have already been eliminated from this season's edition of the Copa del Rey.