At the end of November, just a week or two before the Champions League round of 16 draw, Barcelona were in scintillating form.
The current holders of the Champions League – they won the treble last season – and on course to repeat the feat, nothing could stop them. AS Roma lost 6-1 at Camp Nou and Madrid clubs Atlético and Real were three and six points behind respectively in La Liga.
Before heading to the Club World Cup, though, a Valencia side being managed by Phil Neville held Barcelona to a 1-1 draw.
Just a one-off, right? Maybe not. The next two results saw Barça, heavily rotated, scrape a draw against Bayer Leverkusen before a full-strength side was held to a 2-2 draw at home against Deportivo La Coruna.
As expected, Barcelona won the Club World Cup but have returned to La Liga and again looked a little off the pace on Saturday, drawing 0-0 with local rivals Espanyol. After a tough year, are the heavy amount of fixtures starting to take their toll on the players? They admittedly have enormous quality, but a transfer embargo has left the squad looking a little thin.
Another narrow victory for Atlético on Saturday sent Diego Simeone’s men top of the table and two points clear in Spain, though Barça have a game in hand. They will also have Aleix Vidal and Arda Turan available now, plus anyone else they manage to sign over the course of the next month.
Struggling for form, those players may have to have an instant impact to lift the mood at Barcelona. Three draws in four games is not what you expect from them, but let’s hope they continue to struggle before their trip to London in February. Maybe the impossible task isn’t so impossible after all.