Barcelona lost at Camp Nou this week to Cadiz and Rayo Vallecano
We rewind time back four years and three months to hear Jordi Alba’s line that the Barcelona defender dropped in January 2018:
If we were 19 points behind Real Madrid, we would be killed
In the 2017/18 season, Real Madrid were extremely unconvincing in the first round of the Spanish championship, which resulted in a wild fall behind unbeaten Barcelona (16 wins and 3 draws) at the equator of the season. Madrid finished third in the final table, 17 points behind title-winning Barça, but the Sliços sweetened their loss in La Liga with a third successive triumph in the Champions League.
“Barcelona will not even win the Europa League this season, so it will not be possible to shift the focus from failure in the Spanish championship. Fortunately, the Catalans are “only” 15 points behind Real Madrid five rounds before the finish line, not 19. We really hope that the lives of the players in such a situation are not threatened, but in general it is better to ask Jordi Alba, who will be reminded of the careless phrase more than once.
Barcelona lost three consecutive matches at Camp Nou for the first time in the 21st century
How quickly things can change in soccer. Less than two weeks ago, Barcelona fans were preparing to reach the semi-finals of the Europa League, which they had already virtually won, while at the same time dreaming of the end-of-season defeats of the brutally defeated Real Madrid in the El Clasico in March and the run to first place in La Liga. Dani Alves spoke of Madrid’s luck that Barcelona woke up too late, and João Laporta was even about to throw a championship party:
I hope we can win La Liga. I would like to go to the disco club Luz de Gas to celebrate winning the title
These words were spoken by the president of Barcelona on April 13, and on the 25th they look as ridiculous as possible. It all started with the defeat in the Europa League against Eintracht, whose fans occupied the Camp Nou, which was even more difficult to digest than the failure on the soccer field. Xavi’s team lost the next two matches at home to Cadiz and Rayo Vallecano, modest occupants of the bottom of the La Liga table, with the same score of 0-1.
Three consecutive defeats at the Camp Nou is an extraordinary event, because, if soccer historians and soccer statistics are not mistaken, this was the first time it happened to Barcelona in a single season. Three consecutive fiascoes in official matches between 1997/98 and 1998/99, but then Betis (1:3) and Salamanca (1:4) lost in meaningless matches in May after clinching the title early, and in August they lost at home to Mallorca in the Spanish Super Cup.
Now the situation is much more dramatic. Firstly, the concentration of home defeats is off the scale: three fiascos in 11 days. Secondly, the consequence of the first failure was the departure from the Europa League, which they wanted to win, and the other two indicated Barcelona’s rightful place in the Spanish championship table. Javi’s team probably would not have reached the title even with victories over Cadiz and Rayo Vallecano, but now a rousing end to the season is in jeopardy. “Barça has dived back into noir.
Xavi’s results are worse than Koeman’s
And now for the most striking conclusion of all: the Barcelona renaissance with Xavi’s arrival on the coaching bench after three April defeats is turning into an emotional story. There may be a big soccer rebirth ahead, but it has not happened yet. It’s very easy to prove this with objective data:
- At the time Ronald Koeman was fired from Barcelona at the end of October (incidentally, also after a 0-1 loss to Rayo Vallecano), the gap from leading Real Madrid was 9 points in fact and 6 in lost (Barça had a match to spare). Under Xavi the gap with Real Madrid has grown to 15 points at the moment.
- Ronald Koeman’s winning percentage in 67 games at the helm of Barcelona is 59.7%. Xavi won 53.1% of matches (32 games at the helm of Barça). In terms of percentage of points scored, Koeman is also ahead – 58.21% for Koeman vs. 53.1% for Xavi.
- And yes, Koeman’s start to this season has been a failure, but Xavi was also desperately bugging out before the winter transfer window. “Barcelona accelerated after quality additions came in: Ferran Torres, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Adama Traore. And this we cannot yet measure in objective units the support of the previous and current coach by the club management and Joan Laporta personally.
The championship race in the Primera is over
After Barcelona lost to Cadiz and Rayo Valcano, the last doubts that Real Madrid would win the Spanish championship fell away. Carlo Ancelotti’s team needs only one point in the remaining five matches to guarantee first place. Most likely, the “Royal Club” will not put it off and formalize the title in a home match against Espanyol this coming Saturday. Unless Ancelotti will field a canterano to prepare the first-team players for the return meeting with Manchester City in the Champions League semifinals in the week-long cycle.
Of course, this is a joke, but with a grain of truth: Madrid understand that the national title is not going anywhere from them, so they can fully concentrate on the Champions League, where they need to show their best soccer. In the game with Espanyol there will indeed be a large-scale rotation, maybe we will even see Gareth Bale on the field. As the season progressed, Real Madrid were threatened from afar by first Sevilla and then Barcelona, but in the end the fight for the title in La Liga failed, and now everyone admits it. Xavi said after the loss to Cadiz that Barça were in contention to qualify for the Champions League, and is now angry that the team has aggravated their tournament standing due to inefficiency on the pitch.