All good things must come to an end.
Arsenal’s 3-1 Champions League defeat at the Nou Camp means that Barcelona are into the last eight for a record ninth season in a row. It also stretched the Catalans' unbeaten run to 38 games in all competitions as they hope to become the first team in 26 years to win back-to-back European Cups.
Luis Enrique’s men are currently eight points clear at the top of La Liga and face Sevilla in the Copa del Rey final in May, thereby remaining on course for back-to-back trebles.
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In fact, they have won their last ten league matches with an aggregate score of 34-7.
However, one thing that is guaranteed is that Barcelona will lose a game sooner or later. Another team, in a competitive match that Barcelona want and expect to win, will score more goals than them.
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It is not likely that Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Neymar can all be injured at the same time; Suarez in particular, seems to be impervious to injuries. Therefore, another team will score more goals than the three of them and the rest of the Barcelona team combined.
After being knocked out in the last 16 for the sixth consecutive year, Arsene Wenger said that this Barcelona team had turned “normal life into art.”
Unfortunately, art belongs in an art gallery and some Arsenal fans are suggesting that maybe Wenger belongs in a museum.
Because this is sport and this is why people love sport, because it is just a matter of when, not if Barcelona lose. Because that is how the tide turns; silently like a thief in the night.
So we are all watching Barcelona now, not to marvel at their brilliance. Not to watch the MSN score a hat-trick each and run out 9-0 winners. Instead, we watch to be there when it happens, and to be a witness to the event of the season; when Barcelona actually lose a football match.
And unlike Arsenal, all it takes is a manager with a master-plan and a team that believes in it, and who are willing and able to carry it out to perfection.
It is well-documented that taking penalties has been Barcelona’s ‘Achilles Heel’ this year so just like Paris in the Greek legend, maybe what is needed is for the opposition to aim for it. Not by fouling the MSN in the 18-yard area before they have a chance to score, but to park the bus and play for penalties.
Maybe it would only work in a one-off game like the Champions League final and it would be a brave move by the opposing manager to admit that this would be the only way of winning, but it may be worth considering.
Jose Mourinho had a plan to beat Barcelona and it worked, unfortunately, the fans at the Bernabeu did not like his methods. Real Madrid won La Liga in 2012 by nine points but then the Portuguese succumbed to third-season syndrome and he was gone. The Madrid fans wanted to win by being the better team but sometimes it is more important just to win.
Los Blancos have not won La Liga since 2012 and now sit 12 points behind their arch-rivals. So maybe Barcelona’s upcoming opponents should dust off the Mourinho master-plan from four years ago and update it for 2016.
Park the bus and play for penalties.