There was talk of a crisis in the camp at Barcelona. The team had been beaten 1-0 in San Sebastian by Real Sociedad with Lionel Messi and Neymar restricted to used substitute roles as rumours emerged of dressing room unrest and the fate of manager Luis Enrique was the subject of much adverse discussion. It was also becoming a concern that Real Madrid were being proclaimed as likely Spanish La Liga title winners for the 2014-15 season despite a 2-1 loss at Valencia that same weekend.
Fast forward just two over two months ahead and the picture at Barcelona is far less gloomy especially after the team beat Real Madrid 2-1 on Sunday evening to move four points clear in the title race. As an added bonus, the Catalan team have claimed a berth in the Copa del Rey final in May against Athletic Bilbao after winning all six of their games in the tournament during 2015, and Manchester City were beaten in both legs of Champions League Round of 16 tie.
With the exception of a surprise 1-0 home defeat by Malaga in mid-February, Barcelona have won every competitive game since that day in January when the club was described as being in decline. Lionel Messi has also netted two La Liga hat-tricks and was instrumental in guiding the team to victory against Manchester City whereas summer signing Luis Suarez has become an increasingly important player in a prolific attacking unit.
It had been claimed that the Barcelona team were no longer the force of previous seasons when Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta dominated the midfield in most matches and retained possession with uncanny regularity, but that area has now been supplemented this campaign by the arrival of Croatian international Ivan Rakitic who was signed from Sevilla and who has gradually become a pivotal figure in the Barcelona midfield engine room.
There have been problems at Barcelona, with the transfer ban imposed for importing young players without their parents likely to generate difficulties in forthcoming transfer windows, but the general consensus at the club is now one of genuine hope for the future. A fairly difficult April awaits the team with La Liga games scheduled against Sevilla and Valencia pus a local derby at Espanyol while a Champions League tie at Paris Saint-Germain will not be easy especially as Barca lost a group match at the Parc des Princes back in September.
Should Suarez and Messi retain their fitness for the remainder of the season, and with support ably provided by Brazilian Neymar, another chapter could be written in the success story of Barcelona. With ground renovation set to begin at the Nou Camp and increasing amounts of Qatar sponsorship money also likely to prove beneficial, the talk of that crisis at Barcelona may have been somewhat premature.
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