Barcelona’s 2-1 defeat against Real Madrid at the Nou Camp on Saturday night in El Clasico probably meant very little in the grand scheme of the side from capital catching their arch-rivals in La Liga this season.
However, the defeat may affect the Catalan giants Champions League campaign and it could prove to be more than a blip.
A difficult Champions League clash for Barcelona
For me the draw for the Champions League quarter-final could probably have not been harder for Barcelona, as the European champions drew La Liga rivals Atletico Madrid, who are now just six points behind Barcelona in La Liga.
Atletico may not be the most adventurous or most exciting team in the Champions League, but their style of play is probably the best suited to combatting Barcelona’s fearsome front three of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez.
Diego Simeone sets his teams up to defend first and attack later. They are probably the best drilled unit in European football and have the best defensive record in La Liga, having conceded just 15 goals this season in the Spanish top-flight.
They are not the sort of team that Barcelona will enjoy playing against, as their meeting at the Nou Camp earlier the campaign showed. The Catalan giants came out on top in a 2-1 win, but that was only after Atleti were reduced to nine men.
Barcelona also won 2-1 on their visit to the Vicente Calderon earlier this season and have won their last six games against Simeone’s men in all competitions, but they are never easy opponents.
Psychological effect of defeat
The psychological effect of one defeat can be completely devastating. That 39 game unbeaten run previous to the defeat against Real Madrid will matter little, as you are only as good as your last game.
If Barcelona are not careful then their season could unravel fairly quickly and Atletico have the ability to frustrate Barcelona over two legs. The Barcelona players now face a real test of their character.
Everything was going swimmingly until that defeat against Los Blancos and the players must be strong mentality to regroup and overcome the massive obstacle that Atletico could provide in the Champions League.
Barcelona looks in complete control of the La Liga title race still, six points clear of Atletico, with a superior head-to-head, which virtually makes it seven points. The Champions League is a completely different story though.
Barcelona may now have doubts
Prior to their 2-2 draw at Villarreal and the defeat against Real Madrid, the Barcelona players would have had no doubts about their chances of winning both La Liga and the Champions League this season.
They seemed unstoppable at one point, with forwards Luis Suarez, Neymar and Lionel Messi scoring for fun and causing opposition defences no end of problems.
Their last two games are unlikely to shake their confidence to the core, but who knows what sort of effect the negative result will have on the teams performances in the remaining weeks of the season.
Barcelona are still odds of 1/ 2 to defeat Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their European tie and the Catalan giants probably will get back to winning ways, but the seeds of doubt may just have been planted by that defeat against their great rivals.
Even the best teams go through rough spells, just like Enrique’s side experienced just prior to their unbeaten run starting in October. Quality players and teams usually do not let those sorts of runs go on for very long though.
Barcelona have been fantastic for much of the campaign so far and will now be looking to finish the campaign on a high by winning the Champions League and La Liga.
The next few games for Barcelona will show exactly what their team are made of and whether they will in the future be compared with great club teams of the past. If they manage to win both of the big trophies that they are chasing, then they will have to be considered alongside some of the great teams of the past.
A few weeks ago it seemed like it would be very difficult for anybody to stop Barcelona this season, but the Real Madrid defeat may just raise doubts about the Catalan giants, which they must answer in the next few games if they want to achieve their objectives this season.
How will the defeat against Real Madrid affect Barcelona for the rest of the season?