It is quite possibly the shock of the season: newly-promoted side Hercules won 2-0 at the Camp Nou, home of the team many consider to be currently the best in the world.
Well, Barcelona surely didn't play like the best team in the world today. Sure, they monopolized possession as always, but they were no better than ineffective. Barcelona seemed like an arrogant team at times and the players seemed to believe that, sooner or later, things would go Barcelona's way. Well, if that was indeed the case, they couldn't have been more wrong.
Hercules played an absolutely perfect match and they entirely deserved the win. They were patient, they didn't mind giving Barcelona the initiative, they were extremely organized defensively and deadly in the counter-attack. Sure, Barcelona underperformed, but one cannot deny that Hercules was brilliant today. They obviously can't keep this level for the entire season, but with players like Trezeguet, Drenthe and Nelson Valdez, they'll definitely be a team to watch out for in La Liga. After all, it's not every team that can win in such an empathic way at Camp Nou.
In the first half, a Xavi-less Barcelona controlled possession but failed to create any dangerous chances. Hercules, on the other hand, were clinical and made the most of their first serious onslaught on the Barça goal. Nelson Valdez scored on the 26th minute. By half time, everyone had already realized that Hercules meant business.
Xavi and Pedro came into the match and Barcelona started creating chances, some of them brilliantly denied by the goalkeeper. The goal seemed imminent, but in another perfect counterattack play, Valdez scored again, making it 2-0 in the 58th minute. Until the end of the match, Barcelona kept pushing forward and creating some chances, but it was Hercules who had the better chances with some more deadly counterattacks.
Barcelona woke up too late and their arrogance was punished. In a league where the top teams are not bound to lose many points, more slip-ups might compromise Barcelona's title challenge. The message is clear: no team should be taken lightly. If Barcelona really does have the best lineup in the world, they must prove it on the field.
Javier Mascherano certainly didn't have the debut he had dreamt of. All he's got to show from his first match is his first yellow card in Spain. His overall performance was decent, but this was just a bad day for the entire team. It is expected that Mascherano will start showing why Barcelona signed him soon.
This unexpected result makes the next league match at Atletico Madrid even more important. Atletico are tipped by many experts as dark horses in the title race and they sure have a fabulous team this year. Winning at Atletico is just what Barcelona needs to get back their confidence levels. Another negative result could spell trouble for Guardiola's squad.
Before that, Barcelona plays on Tuesday against Panathinaikos in their first Champions League match of the season. It will be the first test to Barcelona's bouncebackability and only with a much better attitude can Barcelona pass it.
It's time for Barcelona to show why they're favorites in both La Liga and the Champions League. Will Messi, Xavi & Cia. rise to the occasion?