Barcelona: Are We Seeing the Reawakening of Pep Guardiola's Side?

Jason Pettigrove@@jaypetti1971Contributor IFebruary 26, 2015

The personnel have changed slightly, but the football is reminiscent of Pep's glory days.
The personnel have changed slightly, but the football is reminiscent of Pep's glory days.Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Barcelona may have changed some personnel, but the core of Luis Enrique's side remains much the same as Pep Guardiola's.

And if recent performances are anything to go by, we could be seeing a reawakening of that great side.

Age has not wearied them, it would seem.

For example, some of the football played in the first half at the Etihad Stadium against Manchester City in the Champions League was the equal of anything we ever saw from Pep's all-conquering vintage.

It was breathtaking, reducing the home support to stunned silence within the opening half-hour.

Not just the pretty passing carousels, strangely sans Xavi, but the tenacity and ferociousness with which the players went hunting in packs to win the ball back.

Centre-backs bringing the ball out of defence, striding confidently forward to their midfield interaction. Not a simple cross-field hoof that became the hallmark of Tata Martino's underachievers.

Barcelona's front three continued their superb form against Manchester City.
Barcelona's front three continued their superb form against Manchester City.Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Lionel Messi in particular was in fine form, winning possession on numerous occasions whilst readily taking the game to the opponents.

WhoScored.com detail 10 dribbles completed successfully and a man-of-the-match award that was a remarkable 24th of another incredible season.

It was another fabulous team performance to go with so many already in the bank in 2015.

After months of continuous rotation, Luis Enrique finally settled on his best side just after the new year, and it produced immediate dividends, going unbeaten in 11, equalling Guardiola's best run in the process. Not that it bothered Lucho.

Per Joe Wright of Goal.com, the manager spoke to reporters after the recent win vs. Levante and noted:

Guardiola's record? I didn't know I had equalled the 11 wins, records do not interest me. The idea is to enjoy ourselves.

We’ll only value it (the unbeaten run) when the season ends. If we win titles then that’d be very good.

We've played a great second half. I'm happy. It's a victory that strengthens us all.

This is a team that is accustomed to distractions from outside.

It is important to focus and improve.

The loss to Malaga a week after the impressive dismantling of Levante was probably a blessing in disguise—even Pep's tenure would be peppered with defeats against supposed minnows occasionally.

But they always bounced straight back. Something that this Barca side have done noticeably more this season.

If they have conceded or even gone behind during a game, the manner in which they have sought to restore the equilibrium has been a joy to watch.

The Malaga blip at least gave the technical staff something to work with prior to the trip to England, and the fruits were there for all to see.

And the Guardiola-esque nature of the first half in Manchester shouldn't really come as a surprise either.

Way back during pre-season, Andres Iniesta revealed that the club were approaching this campaign in a similar vain to Pep's first season in any event.

Per Iain Rodgers of Reuters via the Daily Mail, Barca's midfield genius told a news conference:

We want to get back to doing things well and making the fans happy.

This year will be tough but we have the goal and the ambition to repeat (the successes of) the 2008-09 season.

We are tackling this year just like that one, with a lot of excitement. 

We are starting from scratch. There have been a lot of changes but the level of excitement and desire is extremely high.

It may have taken a few months for Iniesta's prophecy to be realised, but teams should always be looking to peak at this point of the season, so it's arguable that Enrique has executed his plan to the letter.

He might have put a few noses out of joint along the way, but there's no denying it was the correct course of action.

Gerard Pique is one player who has undergone something of a transformation under Enrique.

Who can forget the sight of him regularly bench-warming at the beginning of the season? An absolute masterstroke by the manager.

Gerard Pique has turned his season around and is one of Barca's best performers at present.
Gerard Pique has turned his season around and is one of Barca's best performers at present.Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images

A player who hasn't really had his eye on the ball for a couple of years, Pique and others were being forced to fight for their place. And to his credit, Pique responded.

His form at present isn't too far off his best years of 2008-11, and he certainly seems to have the bit between his teeth again.

With similar urgency replicated throughout the squad, Barca are starting to batter teams into submission once again. Much like Guardiola's used to.

Not just getting results but draining every last drop out of energy from their opponents until they've nothing left to give. Strangling the life out of every game.

And remember it's not just the bottom sides in the league either.

Scores of 5-2 at Athletic Club, 5-1 against Sevilla and 5-1 against Espanyol speak of excellence at both ends of the pitch for the Catalans.

The triple threat of Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez is the most potent in Europe in 2015, and although Messi's own role is different, there are parallels to be made with the Messi, Henry and Eto'o holy trinity.

It would be a surprise if Enrique was judged on anything other than bringing in some silverware, and he'll need to go some way to get anywhere close to Pep's haul.

However, at least he is safe in the knowledge for the moment that, with more than a third of the season left, Barca are still very much alive and kicking in all competitions.

Can the treble be achieved again?
Can the treble be achieved again?Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Whisper it quietly...the treble is still a possibility.

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