Santi Cazorla’s marvellous strike at the Bernabeu has added renewed optimism at Camp Nou before tomorrow night’s home match against Granada. Pep Guardiola was pessimistic about Barça’s chances after the 0-2 win at Sevilla on Saturday though this might seem strange given that Guardiola formed a part of Johan Cruyff’s dream team which seemed to make a habit out of making incredible comebacks to win the league.
Of those four consecutive Ligas won by Cruyff’s team in the early 1990s, three were dramatically clinched on the last day of the season. The ends to the 92/93 and 93/94 seasons were both incredible but it was the 1991/92 season that saw the most sensational recovery. Real Madrid had begun the season with a run of eleven victories and one draw and in December their lead over Barça was 8pts – I should of course remind you that it was still just two points for a win in those days so it was the equivalent of four victories.
With five games left that season Madrid were still top with 49pts and a goal difference of +46, Atletico were 2nd (46pts +28GD) and Barça were third (45pts +33GD). On Saturday 9th May Madrid went to Oviedo and lost 1-0. The following day both Atletico and Barça won to reduce the difference. In Jornada 35 Madrid beat Atletico while Barça beat Mallorca to go second. Barça took a brief pause to win the first European Cup at Wembley, then in week 36 Madrid could only draw at Osasuna (we’ll see what happens there this season!) while Barça moved to within a point with an outstanding 0-6 win at Valladolid. Madrid held their nerve in the penultimate game of the season, beating Valencia 2-1, however, Barça’s 0-4 win over neighbours Espanyol at Sarria meant that Barça now had the superior goal difference.
This was extremely important as it meant Madrid needed to win, rather than just draw at Tenerife to clinch the title while Barça played at the same time at home to Athletic Bilbao. This is what happened on that incredible day, June 7th 1992.
If we want to see a repeat we will first have to see off Granada who look like surviving their first season back in the top flight. Once again we face opponents with a new coach, former Atletico goalkeeper Abel Resino took over in January and since he began Granada have won four while losing five. Goals from Carlos Martins and Guilherme Siqueira earned them a 2-1 victory over Sporting on Saturday which leaves them fifteenth on 31 pts, but Martins should be suspended for Camp Nou after being sent off near the end. Many will see Granada as easy pickings but victories this season at Betis, Athletic and Sevilla suggest they are capable of causing an upset.
Pep Guardiola will no doubt want to make changes to the team due to the short period of time between games, so we could well see Keita, Alexis and Puyol back in the team while I’m also looking forward to seeing some action from Thiago who is fit again. Leo Messi with 51 goals this season seems sure to start and with the form he is in we may very well see another record fall. He is four short of Cesar’s 235 goals for the club and maybe it is a bit much to ask for another four-goal haul tomorrow, but a hat-trick is surely within reason and that would take him past his previous best of 53 goals in a season.
With the Champions League and Liga to play for and another Copa del Rey final to look forward to, the next couple of month could be extraordinary. Let’s start with a good win over Granada.
Possible Barça XI: Valdés; Alves, Puyol, Mascherano, Adriano; Fabregas, Keita, Iniesta; Cuenca, Messi, Alexis.
My prediction: Barça 3 Granada 0
Date: Tuesday 20 March, Kick off 9pm local time