x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Barca eye La Liga title as comparison with 'Dream Team' grows

Guardiola's side is a modern version of Johan Cruyff's side from the early 1990s, of which the coach was part of.

Barcelona players throw coach Pep Guardiola in the air to celebrate the Club World Cup here in Abu Dhabi last year.
Barcelona players throw coach Pep Guardiola in the air to celebrate the Club World Cup here in Abu Dhabi last year.

MADRID // With Barcelona poised to clinch a third straight La Liga title and through to the final of the Champions League, comparisons with Johan Cruyff's "Dream Team" of the early 1990s are inevitable.

The Dutchman's side, which included current coach Pep Guardiola in midfield, won four domestic league titles in a row between 1991 and 1994. They also claimed the Catalan club's first European Cup triumph in 1992 at Wembley Stadium — the same venue where Barca will meet Manchester United in the Champions League final on May 28.

When Barca play at mid-table Levante in La Liga on Wednesday they could already have secured the title if Real Madrid fail to beat neighbours Getafe at the Bernabeu on Tuesday.

Spain midfielder Sergio Busquets, whose mobility and distribution have been a key factor in Barca's success, said it was too early to know whether he and his team mates deserved to be ranked alongside the great Cruyff side of 20 years ago.

"We'll have to wait to find out if the team is better or worse than the 'Dream Team'," Busquets said in an interview with the club's television channel after Sunday's 2-0 derby win at home to Espanyol.

"What is certain, however, is that we are defining an era, as shown by all the titles we have won."

Guardiola's outstanding achievement has been to maintain the hunger for success in a squad that had already won every available trophy.

He conducted the campaign with a relatively small roster and a raft of injuries, particularly to defenders, towards the end of the season suggests additions are needed over the summer.

 

Real, who reacted bitterly to their elimination at Barca's hands in the Champions League, have long been assured of second place, with Valencia 17 points behind them in third.

The club is focused now on whether Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo can top the La Liga scoring chart ahead of Barca's World Player of the Year Lionel Messi, as well as on reinforcing Jose Mourinho's squad for next season.

Mourinho has already started preparing for the 2011-2012 season as on Monday Real signed Turkey midfielder Nuri Sahin, 22, from Borussia Dortmund on a six-year contract.

With three games left this term, Ronaldo has 33 goals after his four strikes against Sevilla on Saturday, with Argentina forward Messi on 31. Ronaldo is still in with a chance of matching or beating the club record of 38 set by Hugo Sanchez in the 1989/90 campaign.

"Breaking the scoring record is possible but it's not what I am thinking about. I only want to help my team," Ronaldo said after the 6-2 win in Sevilla.

"We earned an excellent result after losing the Champions League semi-final, and that isn't easy to do.

"We need to stay on track and win the three matches that we have left."

With bottom club Almeria already down, only eight points separate Osasuna in 14th from Hercules in 19th in a crowded battle to avoid the drop.

Real Betis are close to securing promotion from the second division and a win at home to Tenerife on Wednesday will be enough for the Seville-based side.