At the start of the weekend of 17th-18th March 2012 FC Barcelona was a full ten points behind their most bitter rivals, Real Madrid, a team that had gelled during Jose Mourinho’s second season in command. While both teams’ performance was amongst the best in the world, it is true that Barcelona hit a flat spot in the early part of the New Year and lost valuable points exactly when they needed to keep within breathing distance of Real Madrid. What must have been galling to Mourinho though was that most football pundits still tipped Barcelona as the world’s best team, despite the evidence painted by the numbers.
The Catalans visited Sevilla on Saturday night, a team that is never walkover, and unlike some recent matches they looked good from the start. Sometimes the players seem to take some time to warm up properly, and this has cost them in the past. However, Barcelona was attacking the Sevilla goal just minutes into the game. While not successful in these early attempts, it did signal their intent. However, when Adriano was knocked to the ground, Barcelona was awarded a free kick. Xavi took the shot from just outside the area and curled the ball into the top corner to put the visitors into the lead after quarter of an hour.
Barcelona continued to attack the Sevilla goal with real flare, showing why they are rated so highly for truly playing “the beautiful game”. And at the twenty-five minute mark Iniesta set up Argentine superstar Lionel Messi, who scored his 150th league goal for Barcelona. The hosts came close to scoring after an error by Pique, but a del Moral header hit the crossbar and the rebound was out of his reach.
Sevilla came on strong in the second half and looked like they might mean business. Despite a good attempt at the goal they soon ran out of energy and Barcelona once again picked up the pace to control the game. Barcelona had several more attempts at scoring a third but they didn’t quite make it and when Messi scored in injury time the goal was ruled offside to leave the final score at 2-0 to Barcelona.
The result meant that Barcelona was temporarily seven points behind Madrid, who were to face Malaga on Sunday. In that match it looked like Madrid was going to win by a single goal on the late Sunday night match. However, a last minute goal by Malaga meant that Madrid had to settle for a single point, leaving Barcelona eight points behind them at the top of the Spanish League. While not impossible to close the gap, realistically the title had already been settled though.