Despite an uncharacteristically slow start to the season, Barcelona are back on track. Constant injuries prevented them from reaching their highest level in the initial stages of the season. After an impressive Clasico in December, the blaugrana side has seem to fix the majority of their issues. Sitting in close second in La Liga, finalists of the Copa del Rey and awaiting the fixture against PSG, the alluded treble is still possible. How obtainable is Barcelona’s treble this season? Do they have what it takes to repeat the magic of 2015?
In the initial months of 2015, Barcelona was also sitting in second place behind the eternal rivals. Much like this ongoing season, Real Madrid had built a comfortable lead thanks to an impressive unbeaten streak. But January saw the collapse of Los Blancos and the birth of the MSN-led Barcelona. Madrid lost their unbeaten streak this January and have yet to reach their highest level since. They narrowly escaped with the three points against Osasuna today and are still to play highly competitive opponents. We saw Barcelona’s practically-won league fall into risk after the utter collapse in March-April last year. Who’s to say that cannot happen for Real Madrid this season?
One of the biggest factors in their treble-winning season in 2015 was the depth of their squad. Luis Enrique could easily rotate a starter for a bench player and the team would hardly skip a beat. Every player on the roster contributed in one way or another. Pedro would be a super-sub when the team needed an extra attacker or when someone in MSN was out. Sandro won them the game against Villarreal in August. Both Bravo and Ter Stegen had exceptional performances in all competitions. Jeremy Mathieu scored against Real Madrid and gave them the win at Celta. And of course, it’s always a cheat code to have the likes of Xavi on the bench.
Depth certainly played a role in last season’s “disappointment”. The players coming off the bench were notably inferior tactically than the starters causing mayhem during injuries. The club resolved that issue in the summer of 2016 by buying six new role players for the future. Though it took the majority of them a time to truly settle into the Camp Nou, they seem to have the ball rolling. Cillessen is dominating in the Copa del Rey. Denis Suarez is showing signs of Iniesta. Even Paco Alcacer is remembering how to score. If role players can keep progressing over the course of the season, it will be a gigantic factor.
Now, Champions League is a different concept. No matter how the team is playing, the luck of the draw will play a huge part. We saw it last year with Real Madrid and their stroll to the final. Even Juventus had their Champions League hopes cut off prematurely thanks to an unfair draw of Bayern early on. Nonetheless, it’s still not a justifiable excuse for a team seeking the treble. In 2015, Barcelona defeated a different country’s champion every step of the way. Champions of Netherlands, Cyprus, France (twice), England, Germany and Italy all went down against the blaugrana. It’s not to say that Barcelona didn’t have a little bit of help along the way. But for them to win the Champions League, it requires a talented squad mixed with some luck.
Barcelona’s treble is still very much at their reach. Both Barcelona and Real Madrid will drop points in league play between today and May. It’s inevitable. They’ll just have to capitalize on any of Real Madrid’s slips. They have the Copa del Rey in clear view, La Liga still within their reach and Champions League is just starting to get hot. With a goal-scoring monster like Suarez, an assisting-magician like Neymar and an alien like Messi, it’s hard to refrain from those treble thoughts. With almost half of the season still to play, Barcelona’s treble hope are still very much alive.