Widely heralded as the best team currently kicking a ball around on Planet Earth, the mighty FC Barcelona could end the season with as much silverware as Arsenal.
It really would be a funny old season if Real Madrid ended up with more trophies than reigning World, European and Spanish champions, FC Barcelona. But that remains a very real prospect as both teams approach the business end of the campaign.
Barcelona may not have been quite as dazzling of late as they were throughout 2009 but they have still been mightily impressive. The destruction of Arsenal in the Champions League and their stroll to victory over their great rivals at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu underlined their pre-eminence on the footballing stage.
The mesmeric talents of the imperious Lionel Messi have been a vital component to their style and success and his sensational strikes – along with the orchestration of puppeteer Xavi Hernandez – have lit up almost every ground on which they have played.
Yet – despite the 2-0 win in Madrid that seemed to cement their twentieth La Liga title and their irresistible display of attacking flair in the last eight of Europe’s premier competition – they remain in real danger of being overhauled in both competitions.
They lead Real Madrid by just one solitary point after they could only record a goalless draw two weekends ago against city neighbours Espanyol, who became just the fourth team to shut out Barcelona in all competitions this season.
Madrid’s reputation of being flat-track bullies has not been dispelled by them winning each of their matches since their humbling at the hands of Pep Guardiola’s team and they now face arguably an easier run-in than their Catalan rivals.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka et al will take the field against Osasuna, Mallorca and Athletic Bilbao before rounding off the campaign against Malaga. Barcelona, meanwhile, have a home match against Tenerife sandwiched in between trips to the Champions League-chasing duo of Villarreal and Sevilla, before they return to Camp Nou to play Real Valladolid.
As Real Madrid are not burdened with European fixtures they will be fresh for each of their dates while tough opposition and a heavy workload means that Barca could very easily drop points especially as they prepare to combat the intense work ethic of Inter Milan in the Champions League semi-final
Trailing 3-1 from the first leg, Barcelona are in the rare position of being underdogs – with the bookmakers, at least – of qualifying for the showpiece final in the Spanish capital. The enormity of their task is brought into sharper focus as they face one of the four teams that have prevented them from scoring this season as well as the fact that they face the tactical genius of a certain Jose Mourinho who has already defied the odds by eliminating his former club Chelsea.
OK, so the goalless draw with Inter was at the San Siro but the Nerazzurri have improved immeasurably since then and they managed to stop Chelsea – who have scored over 130 goals this season – from finding the back of the net on their own ground.
For the first time since he was appointed coach of the first team in May 2008, Pep Guardiola finds himself under pressure. He could well see his team go from winning every trophy they enter into winning none whatsoever and even his wonderfully urbane persona might have trouble dealing with that.
Tickets for this weekend’s La Liga matches – and those for the rest of the season – are still available to compare and buy including Real Madrid v Osasuna, Sevilla v Atletcio Madrid, FC Barcelona v CD Tenerife and RCD Mallorca v Real Madrid. For all your football tickets, visit tixdaq.com.