Despite his well documented ability to galvanize his players in difficult times, but after their Champions League semi-final elimination at the hands of Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan, Pep Guardiola will have his work cut out to lift them for a crucial La Liga trip to Villarreal.
Barcelona go into the final four games of the season with a one-point advantage over bitter rivals Real Madrid but their confidence must be at a low ebb after their hurt of going out on goals aggregate to a very negative Inter in midweek. Barca won the game 1-0 but lost the tie on aggregate 3-2.
Guardiola, who won an unprecedented six trophies last season in his debut season as head coach, now has the tough task of picking himself and his players up, get themselves right psychologically and plan for tonight’s game against a very tricky customer in Villarreal.
Following the midweek disappointment, Barca have not had enough time to prepare, at least mentally for the visit to sixth-placed Villarreal but they have to concentrate on finishing the season well. To win the league they win the remaining four games, starting this evening.
While it is easy to say it, you can only win the league on the pitch and they will have nothing but to give everything in order to achieve it.
They are best placed but now this the time for Guardiola to prove to the unforgiving critics that he actually knows his stuff and that last season’s achievements weren’t just fluke or simply by luck.
The yellow submarines of Villarreal will definitely pose a tough test as they have rediscovered their form lately and are pushing for a place in Europe. They won’t have any sympathy; instead they’ll be looking to inflict further misery to the Catalan giants.
Midfielder Xavi is a main injury doubt for the champions after picking up a calf strain against Inter. Iniesta is yet to recover from a thigh strain, Ibrahimovic has struggled to adapt, Henry can’t produce the good anymore and then the main man himself, Messi is going through some sort of a dry spell.
Real Madrid, who don’t play until Sunday at home to Osasuna, are waiting in the wings and are ready to pounce if their rivals do drop points. With four rounds of matches still to play, there is going to be more twists and turns before the end of the season.
Atletico Madrid keep Spanish hopes alive
If Liverpool have had a very bad season, then Atlético Madrid had an even worse one until they beat their English opponents to book a place in the final of the inaugural Europa league where they will meet another English opponents in Fulham.
The European final will surely add gloss to what has been a poor campaign for the Spanish capital side.
For Rafa Benitez’a Liverpool, this has not been an ideal campaign. While they were expected to challenge for the Premier League title and so a place in the Uefa Champions league next season, qualification for the UEFA Europa League looked a more realistic aim but that is now looking less likely.
Real Madrid would have loved to be in the final of the Champions League at their turf but they couldn’t even go beyond the quarterfinals, while Barcelona’s elimination in the last four means the curse for the holders not to retain the title continues. I have my money on them breaking that jinx but alas.
Now, it looks as though it’s Mourinho’s turn to show the footballing world that he’s a true special one but he will first have to beat a well organized Bayern Munich side, which has improved as the season gets to the end.