Can Anybody Stop This Barcelona Team?

Date published: Thursday 1st January 2015 1:10

Can Anybody Stop This Barcelona Team?

Just when it looked like there simply wasn’t any more time to sack a manager in La Liga with just four games remaining, Granada proved that theory was nonsensical by ditching Abel Resino on Friday morning. The previous night’s rather sorry home defeat to Espanyol had left the team second from bottom and six points from safety.
The former Atlético Madrid boss and goalkeeper – who is a little like a squinting, scowling Harry Redknapp but without the charm – got a solid four months in charge but was unable to do anything about the club’s downward spiral towards La Segunda.
Granada look set to be one of two relegated teams from Andalusia, a region whose population are going to be hearing a lot of wailing Flamenco-tinged tunes about the existential angst of football. The other side is Córdoba, a team that won promotion to the top flight last season after 42 years in the doldrums, and need three points this weekend to have a mathematical chance of staying up.
Those odds are slim though as Barcelona are coming to town with all the talk in Spain – and even the normally unflappable BBC – asking whether the attacking trident of Luis Suárez, Neymar and Leo Messi is the best that has ever been put together.
Although it is of no consolation to Córdoba and probably Granada, teams of this ilk might have a little more chance of competing against the big fish of La Liga in future with a law approved by the government on Thursday that will see the league’s TV revenue eventually being shared in a manner more akin to the Premier League. “A new league has been born,” declared president of the Spanish League Javier Tebas as sides like Atlético threw hats into the air and searched for passing girls to kiss spontaneously.
Whilst the bean-counters of the Big Two spend the weekend fretting over what all this will mean to their accounts, the players of Real Madrid will need to pull off quite the performance on Saturday if they are to have any hope of overhauling Barcelona at the top. With four matches to play and a two-point gap, any hint of a slip-up will be costly, and there is a 50-50 chance that this could take place in the Sánchez Pizjuán with Madrid facing Sevilla.
The odds are stacked against Carlo Ancelotti’s side pulling off the win. The team is looking a little disjointed with a number of suspensions and injuries causing quite the change in line-ups. Sevilla are in spectacular form, undefeated at home in over a year and just three points away from the greatest number of points picked up in a campaign.
Naturally, Cristiano Ronaldo is the key player for Madrid but the Portuguese forward seems to be falling into one of his funks, which takes place whenever he stops scoring goals. That run is three matches now, but Ronaldo would have had a brace in Wednesday’s 3-0 over Almería if an opposition defender and then Alvaro Arbeloa had not nicked the ball from his boot milliseconds before it was going to connect for a certain goal.
Ronaldo’s reaction to Arbeloa’s goal-line tap-in was particularly Scrooge-like with the footballer booting the ball angrily and then positively pouting as he returned to the half-way line. The world is still waiting for another Thierry Henry missive on the importance of sharing goalscoring good news with teammates.
Valencia will certainly be in Madrid’s camp on Saturday, as dropped points for the southern side will be a big boost for their hopes of sneaking into fourth for the Champions League qualification phase. The men from Mestalla themselves should make easy work of visiting Eibar, one of the sides currently looking likely to be joining Córdoba and Granada in La Segunda.
In the future, clubs of this ilk might have more of a chance of staying up with the legislation currently going through the political ringer in Spain. But it will be of no used to Córdoba, Granada and Eibar now.
Tim Stannard

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