“We are back,” Gerard Pique tweeted. On the night Barcelona completely destroyed Real Madrid at their own backyard, faith in this team was finally restored. It was only 4-0. But anyone with a pair of eyeballs who watched the game closely knows it could have been far worse. Only if those golden chances had been converted. Maybe a 6-0. Maybe a 7-0. Who knows?
Barcelona did it again, and also in style. Not many teams in the world can embarrassingly outscore and outcompete Real Madrid at their own backyard. But over the past few years, it has become a habit for Barcelona to give Real Madrid a proper hiding particularly at the Bernabeu. From the Guardiola days to date, most cules have enjoyed a number of iconic moments at the expense of their bitter rivals when the two clash.
The frightening thing about that emphatic El Clasico win wasn’t just because of how well Barcelona played nor the final outcome, but because Barcelona had been equally dominant in previous games. This team had been scoring four goals for fun. This team had been bullying opponents into submission for fun. Xavi’s team had been playing polished and jaw-dropping football week in week out for fun.
Nonetheless, for sceptics there was always an unspoken and unwritten question mark. If Barcelona convincingly defeated Atletico Madrid, then it was because Simeone’s men were already a weakened side. If Barcelona convincingly defeated Napoli away from home, then it was because it was just Napoli. But what then happens when you have run out of excuses and have to admit that something is as great as it looks? What happens when Barcelona maltreat Real Madrid the same way as Osasuna and Athletic Club? Then what, exactly?
Maybe this complete triumph over Real Madrid confirmed to many that indeed Barcelona are back. And that the preceding games in which Xavi’s men were ruthless wasn’t just by accident but rather by design. This new Barça has been meticulously pieced together. The brains behind it? Xavi Hernandez. This new Barça finally looks like a team perfectly molded in the exact image of its head coach. The texture is different. The smell is different. The appearance is different. Painstaking surgery has been done, and the beauty of this team has been made manifest for all to see.
Possible to win trophies
But are Barcelona good enough to claim silverware? How far can they go? How many obstacles can they truly navigate? Maybe the the league looks like a long shot. Barcelona remain twelve points behind Real Madrid with a game in hand. It’s possible the deficit could be erased to nine. But with less than ten games to go, will Real Madrid strangely run out of inspiration and blow their lead? Is this really possible? Could stranger things happen?
But what of the Europa League? For all of Barcelona’s rich history and colourful past, never have they been able to claim this piece of silverware. What better moment to do it than now? Paired with Frankfurt in the last-8, it’s not beyond Barcelona to sail through to the semis unscathed. RB Leipzig, Atalanta and West Ham United are all worthy and decent opponents. But can any of these teams truly stand in opposition to Barcelona’s relentless aggression and firepower? I have my doubts.
With the final stretch of the season upon us, the hope is that Barcelona will fight for the available silverware. It’s in the club’s DNA to challenge for titles. This is who Barcelona are. Maybe the league won’t be won. Maybe the Europa League won’t be won. But one thing is for sure, Barcelona will fight right to the last breath, till it’s mathematically impossible to claim glory. This is who Barcelona are. We are back!