Who Would Pay the Price If Barcelona Went Trophyless?April 29, 2016
At times this season—mostly its entirety—Barcelona looked impervious. Questions about trophies didn't start with "if," but "how many."
Winners of the UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup, some would suggest the Catalan giants have already won silverware this year but, for argument's sake, the trophies that matter are the Copa del Rey, La Liga and the UEFA Champions League.
Scheduled to face Sevilla in the Copa del Rey final on May 21, Barca have at least one opportunity for a major piece of silverware. Knocked out of the Champions League by Diego Simeone's Atletico Madrid, the defending European champions lost their chance to repeat—something never accomplished before in the tournament's modern format.
La Liga, though, is far more complicated.
Before April, Luis Enrique's men had a nine-point lead over second-place Atleti and a 10-point lead over third-place Real Madrid. Three consecutive league losses—to Real Madrid (H), Real Sociedad (A) and Valencia (H)—were seized upon by the chasing Madrilenian duo.
What was once bordering on, and extended to, double digits has been reduced. Atletico currently share the same points total of 82, and Real Madrid are one point behind. It was almost unthinkable one month ago La Liga's title race would be this tight, but the reigning Spanish champions stumbled, thunderously, and allowed their rivals to regain hope.
To Barcelona's credit, they responded with resounding victories after their trio of losses.
Beating Deportivo 8-0 and Sporting Gijon 6-0 (Luis Suarez scoring eight of those 14 goals), the Catalans seem to have corrected their course, but they have zero room for error heading into the season's final stretch.
Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona have all been top of La Liga today!— 101 Great Goals (@101greatgoals) 23 April 2016
3 games to go.
Absolutely incredible title race!!!
Though an admittedly premature glimpse into an unknown, presumed future: One wonders what happens if neither the Copa del Rey nor La Liga are lifted by captain Andres Iniesta next month?
For what was a serene and tranquil environment 30 days ago, ramifications for failure are likely punitive.
Enrique would take the brunt of whatever punishment.
Barca have several untouchable players, so the manager's head invariably rolls first. The Spanish boss has dealt with a year-long transfer ban, won his side a treble and logged a 39-game unbeaten streak. Maybe laying all the blame at his feet would be unjust, but that's usually how these things work.
It's not like Barca would sell their stars, that seems a cutting-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face reaction.
That said: In a one-off game vs. Sevilla, you would back Barcelona at the "neutral" Vicente Calderon Stadium. Their last three league fixtures are against the current 13th (Real Betis), 15th (Espanyol) and 17th (Granada) clubs in Spain's top flight.
Even if only the "Derbi Barceloni" is at the Camp Nou, one expects a club of Barcelona's quality to protect their marginal lead atop La Liga's table. Three victories, nine points, and the title is theirs.
Winning a domestic double would help soothe the pain of Champions League defeat, and possibly seal whatever fissures that were created after a shocking start to April. For Enrique's sake, two major trophies—combined with the UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup—would make for a terrific parade.
Barcelona's manager won't even want to imagine something different.
*Stats via WhoScored.com; transfer fees via Soccerbase where not noted.