LaLiga Santander‘s first round of fixtures came to a close with Barcelona crowned as winter champions, narrowly edging Real Madrid by two goals, though the pair share the same number of points.
But the Catalans are leaders without being reliable, and there are still a number of concerns hanging over the Camp Nou.
Frank Rijkaard‘s Barcelona were winter champions in his third season but didn’t go on to lift the title, instead starting their decline.
The club know there are risks with keeping Ernesto Valverde, particularly since the Anfield collapse, and success for coaches at the Camp Nou tends to dry up.
Rijkaard‘s fourth and fifth years were bad, as was Luis Enrique‘s third and even Pep Guardiola‘s fourth.
They lead LaLiga Santander but there are too many questions surrounding them still.
Not even one of the world’s best goalkeepers can overshadow their problems at the back. They’ve leaked 23 goals in 19 games already, showing their worst return since 2003/04, conceding almost twice the number Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid have (12), worse than Athletic Club‘s 13, Sevilla‘s 18 and even Getafe‘s 20.
They’ve only managed to pick up half of the points on offer away from the Camp Nou and that’s before visiting the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, Mestalla or the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan. Sevilla, Real Madrid and Real Sociedad are all performing better on the road.
Coming back and slipping up
On three occasions this season Barcelonahave fallen behind, come back to lead and then thrown away two points by drawing, and the Catalan derby against Espanyol was just the latest example.
Their 40 points at this point is their worst return since 2007/08, when Real Madrid won the title. Even Tata Martino had managed 44 points at this stage.
Changes in midfield
Valverde hasn’t found the right formula in the middle of the pitch. Sergio Busquets isn’t at his peak anymore, Ivan Rakitic has found his way back into the team and Arthur Melohas been missing a lot. Carles Alena started the season in the XI, but now he’s been loaned out to Real Betis after playing four times in December. Arturo Vidal is one of the most consistent players, but he’s regularly on the bench.
The MSG trident
Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann dazzle at home but they struggle away. They have 31 goals between them – Messi 13, Suarez 11 and Griezmann seven – but if they don’t score then Barcelonastruggle.