Barcelona was up against Valencia in the first leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final encounter at the Camp Nou on Wednesday and at the end of the 90 minutes, the score read 7-0 in favour of the hosts. Club stalwart Lionel Messi led the way with a brilliant hat-trick while Luis Suarez grabbed four goals of his own to heap misery on Gary Neville’s struggling team.
One player conspicuous in his absence from the scoresheet was Neymar, the Brazilian had a chance to grab at least one when he stepped up to take a penalty towards the end of the first half, but his shot hit the post and bounced out. Nevertheless, anyone who saw the match wouldn’t be in any doubt about how great he was on the pitch, never mind the goals.
February has just begun and Barcelona’s front trio of Messi, Suarez and Neymar have already scored 82 goals amongst themselves, only 40 shy of their record 122-goal haul from last season. All these numbers indicate they simply have continued from where they left last season and look all the more ominous as the season progresses.
On the back of the trio’s heroics, Barcelona became the first team in history to have won a treble of the league title, the Champions League and the Copa del Rey for a second time. And with the kind of form the team are currently in it is enticing to think that they have it in them to win back-to-back trebles.
Here are the numbers: with a haul of 51 points from 21 league games so far, Barcelona are three points ahead of Atletico Madrid and four ahead of arch-rivals Real Madrid – with a game in hand – in the race for the league title. In the Champions League they are through to the round of 16 where the Catalans will be up against Arsenal; and with the huge win on Wednesday, they have virtually guaranteed themselves a spot in the final of the Copa del Rey.
There was fear at the beginning of the season that the Catalans might not be able to mount a credible challenge for the league as they had most of their difficult away league games in the first half of the season and were without any new signings, owing to the registration ban. However, the difficult away trips were well negotiated with both Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid well beaten, and Barcelona are well clear in the table.
Notably, Barcelona have now been bolstered by the addition of Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal both of whom have fitted in the team swimmingly.
In the Champions League, Bayern Munich are the only side that seem to be strong enough to challenge the Catalans, but the Bavarians are struggling with an array of injuries to key personnel, and it will be interesting to see if they can have the majority of their first team players in shape when the European Cup is in its last stretch.
Winning the Champions League two years in succession is a feat that no team has achieved so far; however, if any team has looked like successfully defending the European Cup it’s Luis Enrique’s men.
In the Copa del Rey, it appears that Barcelona will take on Sevilla – the Andalusians have a huge 4-0 advantage from the first leg against Celta Vigo – and at a neutral venue, the Catalans will be odds on favourites to beat Unai Emery’s men to the gong.
All in all, if Barcelona manages to win back-to-back trebles, it wouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.