Why Barcelona should concede La Liga and focus on Champions League

Gerard Pique

Real Madrid lead La Liga by four points with five matches to go. Barcelona has Villarreal, Espanyol, Real Valladolid, Osasuna, and Alavés while Real Madrid has Athletic Club, Alavés, Granada, Villarreal, and Leganés. The Celta de Vigo draw for Barcelona felt like the end of the league challenge, but that doesn’t mean the whole season is lost. In a little over a month, Barça will be back at it in the Champions League.

The way Barcelona is currently playing, the Champions League feels like a hopeless endeavor, but maybe the Blaugrana need to take a page out of their rival’s recent playbook. In four of the last five seasons prior to this one, Real Madrid all but conceded defeat in La Liga and focused solely on capturing the Champions League. Culés criticize Los Blancos for seeking glory in a few matches instead of showing their strength in the marathon of a league, but this is Barcelona’s only option now.

In our latest The Barcelona Podcast, Francesc and I spoke about the institutional roadblocks for both Quique Setién and the locker room to change things too drastically prior to the Champions League.

Listen to The Barcelona Podcast here:

Instead of following the thinking that things won’t change, we should play the game of what a responsible club would do at this point.

The first question is – Do Luis Suárez and Lionel Messi need to rest or continue to play to keep themselves in form? After watching the second half of the draw with Atlético Madrid, it’s clear that both players should not be playing the full 90 minutes every three to four days.

A balance must be struck, and that raises the second question – How much authority does Quique Setién have to concede the league and rotate the squad with youngsters?

I understand the argument that the players on big wages should be the ones playing and they have earned those minutes, but the Champions League is the thing that matters at the moment. That said, if Setién knows that his time at the club is coming to an end, why would he give extended minutes to players like Collado, Monchu or Araujo with the understanding that he won’t be around to integrate them into the first team.

The answer, at least in my opinion, is somewhere in the middle. Given those three in particular 30 or 40 minutes at the end of games or starting one of them shouldn’t disrupt the balance of your squad and it should give the veterans some needed rest. Not every Barcelona B player is going to make the first team, so the proposition is not for a full XI of B players. They will have their hands full with the promotion play-offs anyway. However, the three aforementioned players plus Riqui Puig are realistically the four that should provide depth to the first team next season (especially with how little the club has to spend), and that integration needs to start now.

There are 450 total minutes remaining in this La Liga season. If Messi plays 410 of them, Barcelona has the same chance or better to win the Champions League. The same can be said for Gerard Piqué (Araujo’s position), Arturo Vidal (Monchu’s position), or any of the other attackers (Collado can fit in 5 of the front 6 spots). Francesc has pushed for Ansu Fati to get as much time as possible, and he’s not wrong.

At this point, the world is laughing at FC Barcelona, but they won’t be laughing anymore if the Blaugrana win the Champions League.