Thursday, January 21, 2021

Winter in Barcelona and Madrid

Amid a pandemic and and harsh winter in Spain, the two greatest Spanish football sides, Real Madrid and FC Barcelona are both undergoing extended crises. Both have recently suffered humiliating defeats that have underlined their current low forms and the fact that they increasingly risk ending with no titles this season, something that would be completely unheard of.

FC Barcelona has been in a deep crisis even since before their 2-8 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League. The drama of Lionel Messi's wish to leave and the changes of managers was already taking a toll on their performance, and the side has struggled in the new season under Ronald Koeman. This culminated in their recent Supercup 2-3 defeat to Athletic Bilbao, which also saw Lionel Messi receive his first ever red card in the Barcelona shirt when he punched an opponent in the last minute of the match. Messi's action appeared as a complete act of desperation, not just at losing at that match, but at the entire situation with the club. While Messi is clearly carrying a non-performing team on his shoulders (he is the most scoring player), he is clearly not happy; and this is not good for Messi, for his teammates, for FC Barcelona, and for football fans in general. FC Barcelona is in need of some renewal, and as of now, it does not appear that it can happen under the current circumstances.

In Real Madrid Zinedine Zidane, who has otherwise been an outstanding manager, seems unable to manage the crisis that culminated with Real Madrid being eliminated in the Copa del Rey by the 2B Division side Alcoyano, in what should otherwise have been a walkover for a team as Real Madrid. The beauty of football is that these results like these do happen (which Zidane also underlined), but it does points to a crisis where Real Madrid's style and player commitment seems shaky. The team appears to depend on Sergio Ramos, the veteran captain, who seems able to inject energy into the side. There has been a lot of talk of Zinedine Zidane losing his job, but perhaps it shows his enormous standing in the club (having won everything there both as player and manager) that he has not been fired yet. But a lot of (justified) questions are being asked about the route the club is taking.

Real Madrid and Barcelona are trailing Atletico Madrid in La Liga, but are still in the last-16 round of the Champions League, where their current form will be tested to the fullest against Atalanta and Paris St. Germain respectively.

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