12 out of 12 against title contenders
In a little less than a month, Barça has gone head-to-head with teams seen as being the toughest opponents in the League. The outcome of this series of fixtures couldn’t have been better; four wins out of four for twelve points out of twelve.
On 29 November, Barça began a testing stage of the League campaign with an away match at Seville.
This would be followed by a run-in to the end of the year featuring another tricky away fixture at
El Madrigal against Villarreal and home games against Valencia and Real Madrid.
Now almost a month later Barça can look back with satisfaction on having won all four of
those matches. The players have shown what they can do under pressure and have seen off their
nearest rivals in the race for the League title. And what’s more important is that
they’ve also opened up a 10-point gap at the top of the table.
The run-in to the end of 2008 began at Seville. Barça headed south as
League leaders on 29 points and three ahead of the team in second spot, Real Madrid. The Catalans
put in a superb performance to win the game by 0-3, with goals by Eto'o and Messi (2). That put
them on 32 points, with a lead of four over Villarreal who moved into second place.
Next up Valencia
On 6 December a vastly superior Barça side saw off Valencia
by four goals to nil. The star of that fabulous night at Camp Nou was Thierry Henry, who scored a
hat trick, while Dani Alves put away the other. At the end of that weekend’s games
Guardiola’s men had 35 points, six ahead of Villarreal.
Eagerly awaited clásico
The Barça-Real Madrid clash on 13 December went down to the last ten
minutes of the game. In a match played in pouring rain, the Catalans battled to the end to defeat
their traditional rivals with goals from Eto'o in the 83rd minute and Messi in the 89th and leave
Madrid twelve points off the pace.
‘Winter champions’ ahead of time
The hard-fought win at El Madrigal by 1-2 – the fourth
on the bounce in the League – made Barça into ‘winter champions’ with three games
still to go before the halfway stage in the League. Keita and Henry scored the goals as Barça came
from behind to win despite having Piqué sent off.
So Barcelona ends the year on top of the table with 41 points, ten more than Seville, eleven
more than Atlético Madrid and Valencia, and twelve more than Real Madrid and Villarreal. They have
also made the best start to a League season in the history of the club.