A 1-1 draw meant Barcelona surrendered yet another valuable two points at the hands of their local rivals Espanyol on Monday night making it already their fifth draw of the domestic season with four of them being away from home. The gap between Barcelona and Real Madrid at the top of the table has now stretched to a worrying five points for Pepe Guardiola’s men and with games coming thick and fast and time seemingly running out for the Catalonians, we ask the much debated question; exactly why have Barcelona struggled to break teams down on the road this season?
Despite the overwhelming success of Lionel Messi and co over the past three years or so, we have to remember that they are after all only mere mortals. Whilst 8-0 trouncings from both Barcelona and Madrid have been become customary as of late, Barcelona for what ever reason are failing to kill teams off on the road dropping points to the likes of Getafe, Espanyol and Athletic Bilbao as well as being held to a disappointing 0-0 draw at home to Seville – a team very much having a mediocre season at best.
The reason as to why this has occurred is almost unfathomable. With new additions to the side such as Alexis Sanchez and Cesc Fabregas slotting in nicely under Guardiola’s regime and a World Club Cup win last year to boot, it’s hard to imagine why Barcelona have been so inconsistent away from home this season. It is clear that the reason behind Barcelona‘s dip in form is down to a combination of factors.
First of all, the success that Barcelona have enjoyed so much of recently and the very fact that the standards the club’s fans have set for them continue to rise year-on-year has meant Barca have struggled to match the eminence of past glories. A Champions League final is no longer a preference but a necessity if you wish to keep the hard to please supporters that line the Nou Camp terraces every week happy.
This in truth is not helped by the fact that Real Madrid are having a splendid season (barring the El Clasico defeat) with their team finally starting to gel and Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuain forming a formidable partnership up front.
Guardiola has always maintained that his side don’t lack the hunger and desire to go out and win more silverware but judging by recent performances, it would seem the contrary is true. Lionel Messi and notably many others looked sluggish out on the field Sunday night and Espanyol could arguably feel that a point was the least they deserved after having more attempts on goal than their opponents.
Barcelona are also very much a team that live on fear. Spanish managers must hide behind the sofa whilst watching the highlights of their La Liga colleagues getting pulled apart at the Nou Camp every week and when they realize that their team is up next to face the Primera Division champions, they set their stall out to damage limitation mode praying they’ll keep the deficit to below 5 goals in their inevitable defeat as oppose to going out and trying to win the game.
But when certain teams such as Getafe break the cycle and dare to pick up an infamous victory against Barcelona, this inspires other teams to do the same and all of a sudden a result against Barcelona isn’t such an impossible task after all.
The season is by no means over but Barca cannot afford any more slip-ups this year if they wish to retain their crown and once again, a second El Clasico victory in April will be a necessity and could be crucial in determining the victors in this year’s title race which could go right down to the wire.