It seemed like Barcelona will be going through a routine La Liga title run-in only a week ago, but in what has been a fascinating turn of events the Catalan club are risking it all due to an inexplicable dip in form.
Having won just one of the possible nine La Liga points in the last three rounds Barcelona have been left fearing for their life as they have given Madrid rivals a glimmer of hope in the closing stages of the domestic season.
So what happened to Barca?
A 2-2 draw at Villarreal back in March was an ominous sign as Barcelona players packed their bags for the international break not remotely aware of the things to come.
Having travelled thousands of miles to play for their respective countries, Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar returned home out of form, unable to replicate their wonderful displays we have been privileged to witness throughout the campaign.
Derailed and seemingly demotivated, the MSN trio failed to impress in the league following the return from international duty and it had a devastating effect to their team’s results.
The El Clasico loss was a huge blow to Barcelona confidence as Luis Enrique’s men watched their impressive 39 unbeaten run come to an end in an overwhelming 2-1 beating by Zinedine Zidane’s men, who managed to come from behind and overturn the deficit for a morale-boosting win at Camp Nou.
It seemed that Catalans failed to recover from the defeat to their bitter rivals, but they still managed to rise from the gutter and claim a 2-1 quarter-final Champions League win over Atletico Madrid, before suffering a highly unexpected La Liga defeat at Real Sociedad on Saturday.
With Luis Suarez out through suspension and Real Sociedad goalkeeper Rulli in outstanding form, Luis Enrique’s men stumbled for the second time on the bounce as San Sebastian curse has been fulfilled once again.
Where is Messi when you need him?
FIFA Ballon d’Or winner has not scored in four games for his club.
Stuck on 499 career goals, the Argentine wizard is under a spell of some sort as he just can’t seem to get on the mark to complete a huge milestone that will surely unload great pressure from his back.
He had seven attempts on goals on Saturday against Real Sociedad, but was left stuck on 22 La Liga goals with six more games to go.
As the Champions League tie against Atletico Madrid remains open despite the 2-1 result from the first leg, Lionel Messi needs to rediscover his scoring touch as soon as possible in order to lift the team spirits in the crucial moment of the season.
Contrary to Messi’s dip in form, Cristiano Ronaldo has been nothing short of impressing.
The Portuguese star became the first player to score 30 goals in six consecutive La Liga seasons as he bagged against Eibar in a 4-0 win on Saturday.
Can Real and Atletico Madrid hope to beat Barca to La Liga title?
Things seemed good as over for Real Madrid only a couple of weeks ago, but El Clasico win was a timely boost for Zidane’s charges, who are now trailing four points behind in the title run-in hoping to pip both Atletico in second and Barcelona in first place at the standings.
Having thrashed Eibar at home despite resting Gareth Bale, Toni Kroos and Keylor Navas, Los Blancos will now have a fresh distraction in their Champions League return leg against Wolfsburg.
Real Madrid have a tough schedule ahead of them as they travel to Getafe, play host to fourth-placed Villarreal before back-to-back visits to Rayo Vallecano and Real Sociedad. Their penultimate match is a home game against Valencia before they wrap up the campaign with a trip to Deportivo La Coruna.
Atletico Madrid are in much better position.
Diego Simeone’s men are just three points behind Barcelona and have only two away fixtures ahead of them in the last six rounds. They arguably have the easiest run-in with their trips to San Mames and Levante, while they play Granada, Malaga, Rayo Vallecano and Celta at home.
Rojiblancos were impressive to come from behind and claim the maximum three points against Espanyol in a 3-1 weekend victory and will hope to further distract Barcelona during the week at Vicente Calderon in a Champions League quarter-final return leg.
Barca are still favoruites to lift the title at the odds of 1/8 but their fans will be wary of various precedents and the most recent one in the 2006-07 season when Barcelona squandered the all-season lead four games until the end when Real Madrid snatched the trophy right in front of their noses.
Enrique’s men are yet to play Valencia, Deportivo, Gijon, Betis, Espanyol and Granada in the league so the fans are left asking themselves:
Will the similar scenario happen once again?
Could their team let Madrid sides sneak in?