Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Five Titles, 180 Goals – Is There Any One Who Can Stop Barcelona In 2016?

The Catalans rounded off a memorable
year with a 4-0 win over Betis and a
new goals record as they end 2015 on
top of La Liga and seem set for more
success in the months ahead.
This has been Barcelona’s year. The
Catalan club claimed five out of a
possible six trophies in 2015 and
rounded it off in sumptuous style
with a 4-0 win over Betis on
Wednesday night that saw them set a
new goals record in the process. Is
there any stopping them in 2016?
Time will tell, of course. After all,
Real Madrid finished 2014 with four
trophies, a hatful of goals and a club
record 22 victories in a row last
December, only to fade after
Christmas and miss out on all the
major prizes at the end of last
season. So Barca will be wary of
counting their chickens just yet.
For the Blaugrana, though, this has
been an extraordinary year. To think
that is started in January with defeat
at Real Sociedad and an unhappy
Lionel Messi left on the bench seems
almost unthinkable now. Barca
clicked later that same month and
never looked back, winning the
treble as they swept aside everyone
in their path to claim La Liga, the
Copa del Rey and the Champions
League.
The Catalans added the Club World
Cup to their 2015 collection by
beating River Plate just before
Christmas and showed off their
trophies before the match against
Betis on Wednesday.
With the Camp Nou crowd in
celebratory mood, Barca took a
while to get going and were
fortunate to go ahead after winning
a penalty for a supposed foul by
Antonio Adan on Messi. The former
Real Madrid goalkeeper clearly
punched the ball, however, and the
spot-kick should not have been
awarded.
Neymar took it but slipped and
touched the ball with both feet –
which is illegal – as he blasted
against the bar and there was also a
foul by Ivan Rakitic on Heiko
Westermann as the defender put the
ball into his own net. So Betis were
unlucky to say the least.
In any case, Messi made it 2-0 soon
afterwards and after something of a
scrappy first half from both teams,
Luis Suarez scored twice in a much
better performance by Barca in the
second period. It was one final
exhibition in a memorable year for
the Catalan club.
Barca, of course, were banned from
registering new players in 2015 after
a Fifa sanction for irregularities in
the club’s recruitment of young
players.
That suspension was expected to hit
them hard, but the Catalans coped
and can now field summer signings
Aleix Vidal and Arda Turan in
January, which should make them
even stronger for the second half of
the season.
The Bluagrana also managed without
Messi for two months as the
Argentine attacker sat out with a
knee injury, but he returned to play
a cameo role as Luis Enrique’s side
thrashed Madrid 4-0 at the Bernabeu
last month and a win by the same
scoreline on Wednesday sees them
back on top of La Liga with a game
in hand as well due to their
participation in the Club World Cup.
It was a fitting finale to a wonderful
year. And although repeating the
success of 2015 will be extremely
difficult, but there are no signs of a
let-up right now and Barca will be
the team to beat again in 2016.

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