Andres Iniesta believes winning at the Bernabeu is key if Barcelona are to win La Liga for a third consecutive season. The 32-year-old started in the Blaugrana’s 3-0 win over Sevilla to keep Luis Enrique’s men within two points of Madrid, who still have a game in hand.
“We lost to Deportivo and they drew at home to Las Palmas but if we want to have a chance of winning the league, we probably need to beat them at the Bernabeu,” Iniesta told reporters after Wednesday’s victory.
“The bad moment has already passed and I am happy with the team and myself.
“It’s been a little strange this season because of some things and others, but the present is what it is. I hope to play like this in the remaining games.
“It’s never easy to manage an international break because you change the tempo, but the team is good and we are in the loop this April.
“We are in every competition and we could end up in nothing if we do not do things right.”
Meanwhile, the juxtaposition of Barcelona’s thrilling attacking and, at times, sub-par defending is a conundrum that Luis Enrique has been unable to fix this season, but it has to be the first thing on the agenda for his successor.
An opening three minutes against Sevilla that ended with Lionel Messi rattling the woodwork promised much from the Blaugrana, and Luis Suarez’s stunning overhead kick, followed by Messi’s two low drives, were goals and movement of the very highest quality.
Lest we forget that Sevilla were being talked about just a few short weeks ago as serious challengers for Barcelona’s LaLiga crown too.
However, it was the Andalusians that had come closest to scoring before the opener, Steven N’Zonzi somehow contriving to hit the ball straight at Marc-Andre Ter Steven with the goal at his mercy.
Javier Mascherano had thrown a leg at the ball, nothing more, as N’Zonzi powered through, and it was an error of defensive judgment that has become all too common over the course of the season.
Samuel Umtiti continues to impress and Gerard Pique has recovered his best form, which makes Barcelona’s struggles at the back all the more difficult to understand.
A change to a 3-4-3 has given the Catalans more control in midfield, and you’d have to agree that the results since Luis Enrique made the decision to move from a 4-3-3 support his initial theory for doing so.
But control at the back often remains an issue and is the Achilles heel for a side that are still in with a shout of taking Real Madrid all the way in this season’s LaLiga title race.
Barcelona’s all-round performance against Jorge Sampaoli’s side suggests that they are well up for the fight in the next few weeks, and their comeback in the Champions League shows that they can’t be ruled out in that competition either, but if there are genuine aspirations to win more than one trophy, shoring up the back line is a pre-requisite.
Of course, it’s incredibly difficult to be overly critical of a team that has scored 44 goals in the last 11 fixtures, conceding just nine, but herein lies the issue, and it’s one that’s unlikely to be solved anytime soon or with Jordi Alba’s return to the starting XI for example.