It’s been four years since Barcelona last lifted the crown in La Liga, with the Catalan heavyweights experiencing their longest title drought in the 21st century.
Last season was a complete fiasco as the Blaugrana never formed part of the title race despite finishing runners-up to defending champions Real Madrid.
Xavi Hernandez’s appointment midway through the 2021/22 campaign turned Barcelona’s fortunes around following Ronald Koeman’s wayward stint.
The Spaniard oversaw a stellar transfer window in the summer that witnessed the club pull off numerous major transfer deals, sparking hopes among the Spotify Camp Nou faithful that this could be their season.
Inspired by new talisman Robert Lewandowski, Barca enjoyed an eye-catching La Liga start, picking up seven wins from the opening eight La Liga rounds (D1).
Heading into last weekend’s El Clasico, they were level on points with Madrid at the summit and had a golden chance to seize control of the top spot at the Santiago Bernabeu.
But Los Merengues utterly outclassed Xavi’s side, claiming a mammoth 3-1 victory to go alone at the top of the La Liga table and register their fifth win in their last six league meetings.
Barcelona’s morale-damaging defeat in Madrid followed an equally stressful 3-3 Champions League draw with Inter Milan, which significantly derailed the Catalans’ chances of reaching the knock-outs.
With two matches left, Lewandowski and his teammates trail Simone Inzaghi’s team by three points and will need to come up with something spectacular to avoid back-to-back group eliminations.
Another failed attempt to advance to the Champions League round of 16 would be a massive disappointment for a club of Barcelona’s stature. Yet it could benefit their La Liga title pursuit.
Since the title race in Spain’s top flight will likely be contested between Barca and Madrid, fatigue could prove a setback for Los Merengues in the second half of the season.
Carlo Ancelotti’s men have sealed their place in the Champions League knock-outs with two games to spare, meaning they can turn their undivided attention to domestic proceedings for the rest of 2022.
On the other hand, Barcelona’s two upcoming Group C fixtures against Bayern Munich and Viktoria Plzen will determine the course of their European season.
Since Xavi will likely go all-out to get all six points, his side’s utmost effort to obtain the necessary points in Europe may take its toll in La Liga, where a demanding schedule awaits Barca.
The Catalans can ill-afford to lose more ground on Madrid, so the forthcoming encounters against Villarreal, Athletic Bilbao and Valencia could have a substantial bearing on their title chase.
However, there’s no denying – Barcelona can still win La Liga. Unfortunately, they have to hope that Los Blancos end up dropping some points, which seems far-fetched at the moment.
With Ancelotti’s lads delivering week in, week out, Xavi may want to avoid squad rotations, even though it appears necessary to keep fresh legs during this congested fixture schedule.
Mentality is another critical factor. Barca must shrug off the stress as mindset and determination will go a long way to serve a team filled with exceptional quality.
There’s plenty of time to make ground on Madrid. But the question is – can Xavi restore the confidence and unrelenting desire to win that were omnipresent during Lionel Messi’s glory days at Camp Nou?
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