Can Barca Get Off Negativity Bandwagon?

Those of us who support lowly clubs can find it difficult to imagine the fuss made over two defeats suffered by a goliath. Will this weekend's Copa offer some respite?

Last Updated: 06/12/13 at 12:04 Post Comment

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The problem with writing about the goliaths of world football, but supporting a wholly useless team on a personal basis, is getting into the very peculiar mindset of a Big Team fan. Take Barcelona for example, one of the biggest beasts of all, and a side that is expected to send all-comers packing by 15-goal margins in every single encounter.

When a game is lost, there is a reason for significant outcry and soul-searching. When back-to-back defeats turn up, then a crisis of multi-dimensional proportions is called. For this column in particular, it is hard to understand why, considering a goal for its own team of choice is worthy of a street party, never mind a victory.

On paper, everything looks fine and dandy for Barcelona. The Catalan club sit top of the table in La Liga with just five points dropped from 15 games; Real Madrid were defeated in the first Clásico of the season and passage to the Champions League knock-out rounds is assured, although there is still work to be done to secure first spot.

Of course, Lionel Messi and Víctor Valdés are both sidelined with injury until the new year, but in a league where hapless cannon fodder is the general description of most of the opposition, the likes of Neymar, Pedro and even José Pinto in goal are more than capable of doing the job.

However, the noise around Barcelona is of a club that is looking sluggish and slow under Tata Martino and is fast losing the plot. '(Tata Martino) put together one of the best runs in the club's history but all around him it is permanent dissatisfaction,' wrote Roberto Palomar in Monday's 'Marca', the morning after Sunday's defeat at Athletic Bilbao. 'This is not our Barca!' was the panic-stricken headline from Catalan capital daily 'Sport'.

Taken out of context, the loss was not a particularly shocking one. Athletic are in the Champions League places and quite the feisty foe in their new stadium. Indeed, historically speaking, the fixture has always been problematic for Barcelona with just one victory from the previous four encounters. However, the loss came along just days after a fairly lacklustre showing in a defeat against Ajax. Nevertheless, from the manager to the players involved, all have been eager to differentiate the two results and deny that there is any kind of pattern.

The Champions League loss was an all-round bad day at the office, goes the Barcelona narrative, whilst the Athletic Bilbao match was an unfortunate loss from a poorly defended goal. The only thing wrong with the side at the moment, said Martino on Thursday ahead of a weekend cup clash against Cartagena is that "when there is not much time left, the team loses composure. We need to impose our game much more strongly".

So the big question is why the big fuss over what appears to be an iffy run of form experienced by all clubs. For Gerard Piqué, the criticism stems from everyone comparing the current Barcelona to the sides from days of yore, an unfair exercise, according to the defender. "We need to stop comparisons with the past," argued the Barcelona stopper, "we cannot compare ourselves with the team from the year which won six titles."

Tata Martino recently grumbled that he will always be under fire from some quarters for being neither Spanish nor Dutch. There is still some misapprehension of the ways of a relatively unknown Argentinean newcomer, who promises a more direct style of football and who is not averse to putting some big-name players on the bench. The current Barca boss seems to be a touch confused with the negative stories, commenting after the Ajax defeat that he would happily continue with form that sees his team losing just one game from 20 at that time.

Whilst Barcelona are currently in a sticky spot in terms of form, the big reason for such a hullaballoo is that in Spain, the Big Two clubs are either world-beating geniuses of football - the current moniker for Real Madrid - or the most inept side on the planet. There is very little in between. Defeats are rare for this pair, so every setback must be leapt upon to fill those endless hours or airtime or hundreds of sports pages with fierce, dramatic debate.

The weekend should see a bit of a break from all the white noise from supporters and media with the Copa del Rey opening fixture being moved from its traditional midweek home, front and centre on a weekend. The draw, which is designed to go easier on those top-flight clubs who are involved in European action, has Barcelona in a two-legged affair against third-tier side Cartagena.

But, a third successive defeat against this particular small-fry side really would give reason for those endlessly predicting 'the end of a cycle' for Barcelona to have justified reasons for their claims. However, for the moment, it feels a little like a lot of hot air with no substance.

Tim Stannard - follow him on Twitter.

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