Wednesday, 6 May 2015
27 wins in 29 games - Brilliant Barcelona in best form since Guardiola era
Luis Enrique's side thrashed Cordoba 8-0 on Saturday in their latest comprehensive win ahead of Pep's return to Camp Nou with Bayern Munich next week
Barcelona are peaking at just the right time. As Pep Guardiola prepares for his Camp Nou return with Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Wednesday, Barca are now enjoying their finest form since the Catalan coach left the club in 2012.
The semi-final tie against Bayern is the toughest test for Luis Enrique since he took over from Tata Martino last summer, but the Blaugrana look as ready as they can be after hitting a purple match over the last few months.
Following some unconvincing performances earlier in the season and constant changes to the starting XI, Luis Enrique left many observers and fans wondering what he was doing.
But not now. Barca's brilliant 8-0 win at Cordoba on Saturday was the team's latest exhibition of attacking football and featured a first hat-trick in the club colours for summer signing Luis Suarez, as well as two goals from Lionel Messi and one apiece for Ivan Rakitic, Gerard Pique and Neymar.
The six for Barca's fantastic forward line means Messi, Suarez and Neymar now have 108 for the season combined, a formidable total with either six or seven games still remaining for the Catalans in 2014-15.
Overall this term, Barca have won 45, drawn three and lost five of their 53 fixtures in all competitions, scoring 159 goals and conceding only 31, while they have kept 30 clean sheets. And since losing to Real Sociedad at the beginning of January, the Blaugrana have lost only one more, drawn another and won the other 27 of their 29 matches.
That sole defeat came in a surprise home defeat to Malaga in late February and afterwards Luis Enrique said: "I would like to say that this was an accident, but time will tell."
It was. Barca won 11 games in a row before losing to Malaga and have not lost since, their only blemish a 2-2 draw at Sevilla last month when they let a two-goal lead slip after playing perhaps their best 35 minutes of the season.
Leading La Liga from fierce rivals Real Madrid, facing Athletic Club in the final of the Copa del Rey later in May and in action against Bayern in the last four of the Champions League, Luis Enrique's side remain on course for a stunning treble like the one claimed by Guardiola's great side in 2008-09.
"I'm happy," the Asturian coach said afterwards. "We were especially effective in the second half (in which they scored six times). We have won three vital points." And defender Javier Mascherano added: "We can't relax now, but we are in good shape and that's down to our coach."
Nothing has been won yet, of course, and Luis Enrique knows he will be judged on titles - not on his side's record between January and early May. But as they gear up for the return of Pep on Wednesday, Barca are currently in their finest form since the Catalan coach's remarkable reign ended in 2012 with 14 out of a possible 19 trophies in four fantastic seasons.
Perfect preparation for their toughest test yet.