Barcelona took a huge step towards the treble by brushing aside Real Madrid… but there are still doubts over their ability to topple Europe’s elite
- Barcelona took a huge step towards completing the treble on Wednesday night
- They brushed aside Real Madrid 3-0 in the Copa del Rey to reach the final
- Lionel Messi and Co are also the clear favourites to win another La Liga title
- However, there are doubts over whether they can become European champions
Ernesto Valverde took charge of his 100th Barcelona game on Wednesday and it ended in him picking up his 68th win and taking a huge step towards achieving the treble previously won by Luis Enrique and Pep Guardiola.
However, there remain huge doubts over whether what is currently too good for Madrid will be too good for the rest of Europe.
Barcelona are clear favourites to win the league. They are now expected to win the Spanish Cup regardless of whether or not they face Betis or Valencia in the final on May 25. And the Champions League qualification to the quarter-finals is still very much within their grasp with a second leg at home to Lyon after the first leg 0-0.
Barcelona took a huge step towards completing the treble against Real Madrid on Wednesday
Luis Suarez scored twice as the Catalan giants booked their place in the Spanish Cup final
But that failure to score in France, a recent 0-0 draw against Athletic Bilbao, and the fact that they created so few chances on Wednesday night mean they still fear what Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City and a Kylian Mbappe inspired Paris Saint-Germain might do to them in Europe.
For now what matters just as much to the club’s supporters as a possible treble is the fact that Valverde has also been able to extend a trend started by his predecessors – the domination of Real Madrid, unimagined in any other era of the club’s history.
Barcelona have now won 10 of their last 17 games at the Bernabeu. They have now been lording over their rivals since 2005 when Ronaldinho was given a standing ovation by Real Madrid supporters for his part in a 3-0 Barcelona win at the Bernabeu.
Barcelona won 6-2 there in 2009 when Guardiola first tried Lionel Messi in a false nine position between Samuel Eto’o and Thierry Henry and it paid off with a thumping win.
They won 3-1 there in 2011, and 4-3 in 2014. They won 4-0 in 2015, 3-2 and 3-0 in 2017 in league and cup. No wonder ‘right at home here’ was one of the headlines.
Barcelona based paper Mundo Deportivo hailed their performance in Thursday’s edition
Ernesto Valverde is seen as the calm hand on the wheel guiding the club to yet more honours
Valverde is not seen as the revolutionary catalyst for this extraordinary domination. Neither is he seen in the same light as Luis Enrique who channelled the combined brilliance of Luis Suarez, Neymar and Lionel Messi and, although he fell out with them at times, put trophies on the table.
Valverde is the calm hand on the wheel guiding the club to yet more honours. He doesn’t get involved in controversy. Neither does he get bogged down by the nuances of style.
It hasn’t escaped the attention of the Barcelona purists that the team had managed to score twice from just three shots at the Bernabeu. It’s also been noticed that they no longer press high or dominate possession as they once did but they keep winning and that is what counts for Valverde.
If they beat Madrid on Saturday they will be 12 points ahead of them in La Liga. Only Atletico Madrid will stand between them and the domestic tournament.
They will lift their fifth successive Spanish Cup in May if they overcome Valencia or Betis. The Champions League may only be one tied of the treble but it feels like at least three-quarters of what they have left to achieve this season.
A herculean effort will still be required. But for now they are just luxuriating in the light of so many seasons spent leaving Madrid in the shade in Spain.