What’s left for Barcelona to play for? Reaching the 100 points mark, a club record, and for certain players, especially forwards like Alexis Sanchez, David Villa and Pedro to try and prove they deserve a place with the team in the future, as it appears at least one of them will probably be sold in order to clear a spot for Neymar.
Winning against Espanyol (a derby is still a derby) is important, with Barcelona not having too many troubles on their way to a 2-0 which widened their lead from Real Madrid to 15 points with one match left to play in the season, but everyone is thinking about next season.
With Lionel Messi taking an early summer break, Barcelona once again played with Cesc Fabregas at the central position of their attack, something that usually doesn’t suit him very well, an he looked uncomfortable and as ineffective as he has for the last month or so.
Things weren’t that different for David Villa, who might be the one closest to a departure next season. The striker who doesn’t play as one has scored only one goal since Mid-March, and turned out one of his weakest displays of the season. Maybe it’s his actual ability that’s gone, but it seems that the mutual discontent for both club and player is leading him to put up disappointing performance after abysmal one, and his sale is imminent.
More interesting questions regard Alexis Sanchez and Pedro, both having quite frustrating seasons, but both getting on the score-sheet, which has been happening more and more of late. It might be less pressure that’s helping them perform well (Pedro came off the bench for Villa after 70 minutes), but it might the effect a potential sale or release holds over players. Barcelona are bringing in Neymar, while a returning Isaac Cuenca and the ever present Cristian Tello are also looking to push into the lineup.
Alexis scored only two league goasl going into April, but has quite on fire in the last couple of months, scoring six over the last seven weeks. It was impossible to comprehend how a young player who did so well on his debut season for the club, despite the position switches and the injury, would go on such a long and enigmatic scoring drought. Things weren’t working for him, as he switched wings and tried everything. Something clicked at the end, hoping it’s not too late.
When looking at how well they’ve played and not just the goals, Pedro had a better season than Alexis, although the numbers (7 goals and 5 assists for Pedro, 8 goals and 9 assists for Alexis) do point toward the Chilean being the more productive player. They’re both extremely hard working and can play in more than one position, but Alexis can provide a central option better than Pedro, while Pedro’s performances, at least in quality, have been a bit more consistent.
So who stays and who goes? Villa looks like the easy decision. His age, his mood and the overall feeling that he has done his part for the club over the last three seasons, which might suggest that he was a bit of an overpriced purchase, considering what they were able to get out of him before the injury as well. Barcelona won’t look too different from the past three seasons in 2013-2014, but just the arrival of Neymar signals some sort of change, and it’s not going to be the last.