As we continue our voyage to provide Leo Messi with his third treble, it becomes clear just how significant a task this could be, particularly in Europe.
The group stage for the Champions League drew us with Slavia Prague, Ajax and Paris Saint Germain. Whilst finishing top spot would clearly be a tough ask, Barcelona do have a plethora of elite footballers, it shouldn’t be THAT hard, right?
Struggles in Europe
First things first, we qualified for the knockout stage. Finished second in the group, easily ahead of Ajax in third, with Slavia Prague still to play. However, it was absolutely those games against the weaker sides that dragged Barcelona through.
The man himself, Messi, has actually underperformed in Europe – I only played him in 3 of the 5 games due to fitness struggles, and he has only registered an assist in that time. However, the aim here was just to get through, the next step is seeing the draw for the knockout stage.
The frustrating thing about the PSG losses were that they came largely from strange errors, defenders dawdling on the halfway line, M’Bappe nicking the ball and sprinting into empty grass before easily being Neto in goal (with Ter Stegen injured until January, it is likely there could be a reduction in goals conceded once he returns to the side).
Steady at Home
Domestically, things are promising but not spectacular. The most notable statistic is that, after 11 games played as we delve into December, Barcelona are the only unbeaten team in La Liga. Real Madrid have lost on two occasions, Atletico Madrid are languishing in 10th.
Barca would be top if not for Real Sociedad, who have won nine of their opening ten games. Pleasingly, the game they did not win was at the hands of Barcelona. An away 1-0 win thanks to a set piece is not the free-flowing football the club is known for, but with the players available it is more than enough.
So, 11 games, 7 wins, 4 draws and 0 losses is a perfectly acceptable start to the season. Enjoyable performances and some huge goals have come from the dynamic Riqui Puig; Pedri and Ansu Fati have been solid without being spectacular; the most consistent player in the side has undoubtedly been Sergi Roberto, who currently leads the league for Player of the Match awards at right back.
In amongst this was a 2-2 draw at the Bernabeu, a match which should have been a walkover for Real Madrid, but plucky Barcelona held on – not the way it should be, but the way it is this season. Still, it maintains the unbeaten form in essentially the hardest game of the season.
In fact, we have now played the two main rivals for the title, both away from home, taking 4 points from 6 in the process. Repeat the trick at the Camp Nou in the second half of the season and things will be getting exciting.
Messi, The Star
The clear player of the season so far is Messi. Playing in the advanced playmaker role alongside the shadow striker, he has scored 5 and assisted 4 in his opening 10 games. Naturally, he can’t play every game (hence him being rested for some European games), so its about carefully managing him going further into the season.
The only real downside is the distinct lack of consistency from Griezmann and Dembele. Much like the problem Ronald Koeman has faced this season, these two players, each costing over £100m, have severely underperformed, despite flashes of clear brilliance. If they can become more consistent, maybe this ambitious goal will become a little more achievable.