The club have won their last 11 games since defeat at Real Sociedad, equalling the run set under Guardiola in 2008/09. Manager Luis Enrique received plenty of criticism early on in the season, yet is quick to dismiss these records comparing him to Guardiola and Tito Vilanova.
“I care about titles, not records,” the former Barca man was quoted at the weekend. Enrique may receive his titles with the club firing in all three major competitions, and Real Madrid stumbling in the league.
Performances have been indifferent from Real, whereas Barca have regained their goalscoring touch. The contrast can been witnessed in the varying displays from star men Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Despite both playing alongside stars such as Gareth Bale and Luis Suarez, Messi has thrived and taken Barca to the next level, and Ronaldo has struggled of late.
Messi, on his 300th La Liga appearance, scored his record-equalling 23rd hat-trick against Levante on Sunday and surpassed Luis Figo’s number of league assists.
It had taken a while to gel, but the expensively-assembled trio of Messi, Neymar and Suarez, all of whom scored in the 5-0 demolition, appears to be coming together and scoring goals with alarming regularity.
It was the goals which gave Real such a dominant lead in the title race, their ability to outscore opponents despite quite concerning defensive errors. Their own unbeaten run coincided with Barca’s rotten spell where the players were struggling to adapt to Enrique’s style of play.
Now the shoe is on the other foot, and Messi is at the forefront of everything good about Barcelona. He has become the talisman and the orchestrator from deeper positions – proven by his incredible assist record. Messi has overtaken the current Ballon d’Or holder, recovered from the disappointment of not winning the World Cup and taken on renewed responsibility in an evolving side.
However, Ronaldo was the one who won a glut of titles last season, not Messi. Personal records aside, it is the silverware Messi and Barcelona need to regain if they are to be classed as the elite again.