x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Barcelona's party may be over

Spanish football is obsessed by cycles and arguments persist about whether Barca are on the way down. Andy Mitten reports.

Barcelona players and fans celebrate after winning the Spanish Primera Liga title. But dark days may be ahead for Barca.
Barcelona players and fans celebrate after winning the Spanish Primera Liga title. But dark days may be ahead for Barca.

Barcelona are Spanish champions for the 22nd time (Real Madrid have 32 titles) and the latest success should be celebrated like it is significant.

They have more points at this stage in the league than at any time in their history. They will finish the season with a magical 100 points if they win their remaining three games, against Valladolid and Malaga at home plus Espanyol away, when their city rivals will have to provide a guard of honour.

That would equal the record set by Mourinho's Madrid last season, though Barca need to score an implausible 21 in three games to match Madrid's goal difference.

There are many reasons to be positive.

The Catalans have won the title back from Madrid and survived without their coach for three months.

Lionel Messi has consistently shown why he is the best player in the world, though his form was hit by a hamstring injury in March and he is likely to miss the rest of the season.

Barca also reached the semi-finals of the Uefa Champions League, so why is there a sense of under achievement at Camp Nou?

This anticlimax is in part because the expectations are so high.

Fans have been spoilt watching the best team in world football in recent years, with the greatest players.

They have seen them outclass their greatest rivals, often in key games.

The 5-0 annihilation of Madrid in 2010 remains the benchmark for a team performance in world football.

And they were far too strong for Manchester United in two Champions League finals and put four first-half goals past Bayern Munich in 2009.

This title was Barcelona's fourth in five years, their sixth in nine, and such success should not be dismissed at a club which saw just one title win in 25 years between 1960 and 1985.

An estimated 100,000 fans turned out to applaud their team on Monday as they paraded the trophy though the city after their 2-1 win at Atletico Madrid a day earlier, but they are concerned about the future.

Spanish football is obsessed by cycles and arguments persist about whether this team is on the way down.

Coach Tito Vilanova differs, but the 7-0 aggregate defeat by Bayern Munich provides detractors with ample evidence.

The jury is out, even though Barcelona are champions.

 

sports@thenational.ae

 

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