Bookmakers have slashed the odds on Barcelona winning La Liga after Ronald Koeman’s side thrashed Huesca 4-1 at the weekend.
They are now unbeaten in 17 league games, a run that stretches back to early December. That remarkable run of results has seen Barca climb up to second in the table, and they now trail leaders Atletico Madrid by just four points.
There are still 11 games remaining this season, so there is plenty of time for Barcelona to overhaul Atletico. Diego Simeone’s men have won only two of their last six league matches, and they might be nervously looking over their shoulders.
Barcelona were languishing in seventh place in the standings after losing 2-1 to newly promoted Cadiz on December 5. The club was firmly in crisis mode. Captain Lionel Messi was disgruntled after being thwarted in his bid to leave in the summer. President Josep Maria Bartomeu had resigned along with the entire board, and Barca’s financial position was positively perilous.
Memories of an 8-2 Champions League drubbing at the hands of Bayern Munich lingered, and the squad was still scarred following their subsequent capitulation in La Liga. Stalwarts Luis Suarez, Ivan Rakitic and Arturo Vidal had been offloaded, and the club had failed to sign high-quality replacements.
To make matters worse, Suarez was on fire for Atletico Madrid after joining them on a free transfer. Barcelona trailed Atletico by 12 points, and seemed highly unlikely to mount a serious title challenge. All in all, things were looking bleak.
Fast forward 15 weeks and the picture is a lot rosier for Barcelona. Since that defeat to Cadiz, they have picked up 14 wins and three draws from 17 games. They have overhauled Real Madrid and several other teams, and they now lurk ominously behind Atletico.
They may have crashed out of the Champions League, but they have a Copa del Rey final to look forward to after pulling off a stunning comeback victory over Sevilla. Fans can afford to feel a sense of cautious optimism once more.
Messi has been at the heart of Barcelona’s resurgence. He may have tried to engineer a move to Man City last summer, but he does still love the club and he remains a consummate professional.
The 33-year-old Argentinean forward has scored 21 goals and provided nine assists in 25 league games. Since the start of 2021, he has unplayable. He scored two magnificent goals to put Huesca to the sword in Barca’s last game, and he seems hell-bent on leading his team to the title.
Yet Barca are certainly not a one-man team. Pedri, Frenkie de Jong, Riqui Puig and Francisco Trincao have all impressed, pointing to a bright future for the club. Ronald Koeman, who inherited a messy situation when he took over as manager in the summer, deserves great credit for placing his faith in youth.
Joan Laporta has returned to power after a landslide victory in this month’s presidential election. The club won four La Liga titles and two Champions Leagues in his previous seven-year spell in charge, and his return has created a buoyant mood.
Barcelona have been cut to 13/8 (2.62) with the likes of Bet365 and Betway to win the title, but you can find a market leading 15/8 (2.88) at William Hill. Atletico have drifted out to 5/6 (1.83) with Bet365 and various other bookmakers after suffering a bit of a wobble in recent weeks.
Real Madrid are out at 13/2 (6.50) with Unibet, despite sitting just two points behind Barcelona and six points behind Atletico. Zinedine Zidane’s side are unbeaten in nine games in all competitions, they have recently welcomed back several key players from injury and they are full of confidence after sweeping Atalanta aside in the Champions League, so they could turn it into a three-horse race.
Yet the momentum is currently with Barcelona. They still have to play Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid in the remaining weeks of the season, and those games could determine the outcome of a gripping title race.