Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Neymar have Barcelona on track for more trophies
Currently on a record 30-match unbeaten streak and having scored an astonishing 16 goals in their last four outings, there is no denying that Barcelona are hot favourites to retain their domestic and continental crowns this season.
On Sunday, the Camp Nou scoreline reflected an unimpressive yet fair 1-1 draw at the break. Celta Vigo were applying relentless pressure all over the pitch and forcing the Barca playmakers into rare passing mistakes as a result, to the point of making the team look largely sloppy when in possession.
To make matters worse, the visitors' effectiveness when counter-attacking had caused the Blaugrana back-line far too many problems and, to be totally honest, the hosts seemed to have totally run out of ideas by the time the half-time whistle came -- as Jordi Alba's bizarre foul inside the area on John Guidetti clearly exemplified.
Cules will never quite know what caused the vast improvement that followed after the break. Whether it was a direct consequence of an inspirational talk by Luis Enrique, a quick 'Time to get to work, boys' conversation between Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar or quite simply the stars aligning in some sort of divine manner, the truth is that what the Camp Nou faithful witnessed in the second half was perhaps the most sublime, excellent tribute to football the world has ever seen.
Impossible flicks, unstoppable combinations, dynamic runs into space, cold-hearted finishing and, to top it all up, an instantly legendary penalty taken by the best player to ever grace the sport and converted by the most influential striker in football today -- all in the space of a memorable 45 minutes which should be shown in every football school for the next couple of centuries.
At this point, every fan on the planet knows that Barca's Three Amigos form the most deadly front-line in the sport's history. Constantly trusted by teammates, respected by opponents and idolised by supporters, the MSN trident is the weapon that rival managers can only dream to have at their disposal.
However, their commanding display against the very competitive Celta truly felt as if the South American trio had decided to step their dominance up a notch. Their almost telepathic connection, when combined with a truly selfless attitude, helped the three world-class individuals reach a never-seen-before level of dominance to be proud of.
The fact that Messi passed on the chance to score his 300th goal in the domestic league to gift Suarez his third of the night speaks wonders of the No. 10's truly selfless attitude and the fantastic relationship he has developed with his attacking partners.
However, the non-Catalan media did not waste a second to brand Messi's penalty as 'controversial,' 'unnecessary' and even 'arrogant.' While every opinion deserves to be respected, it is clear that those who feel the need to criticise the creativity of a five-time Ballon d'Or winner when producing one of the most mind-boggling plays in modern football history should really turn their attention to other sports instead.
Whoever did not enjoy Messi's genius play from the penalty does not understand the essence of football, the core reason why millions of children around the world give everything up to kick a ball whenever possible.
Pointless debates aside, Barca's recent successes demonstrate that Luis Enrique's side has reached a degree of excellence that could potentially lead them to yet another historical number of titles this season. If the core of the squad can avoid injury, there is no reason to doubt the Blaugrana's ability to overcome any challenges they could face at either domestic or continental level.
It's their endless ambition that has driven the Catalans to this 30-match unbeaten streak. While nobody in the club has given such achievement much importance, the team's overwhelming dominance of late must be acknowledged, celebrated and, if focus remains, extended.
Barca's insanely busy schedule will continue to affect the team's preparation in the next few weeks and become a major headache for Luis Enrique to deal with, particularly once the team starts competing in the Champions League knock-out stages. The manager clearly loves rotating his squad whenever possible but, with the team scheduled to face high-calibre rivals such as Arsenal, Sevilla or Villarreal in the next few weeks, Barca's best XI better be ready for the difficult battles ahead.
Despite the arrival of both Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal, it is still unclear whether their addition will stop other key players from dropping their performance levels due to fatigue in the crucial, final stages of the season. However, Luis Enrique has begun granting Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets and even Dani Alves some more resting time since the winter break and, if such tendency continues, there is reason to be optimistic.
Despite the positive results achieved in recent times, Barca must ensure their game remains dynamic enough to surprise rivals who opt to field a densely populated formation in their own defensive third. The games against Atletico Madrid, Malaga and even the first half against Celta clearly showed that teams are more than capable of hurting the Catalans if given the chance, especially when passing is not fluid enough and key players perform below their best.
Leading La Liga with a three point advantage and a game in hand and with their chances to retain both the Copa del Rey and the Champions League titles still intact, Cules could very well be welcoming further silverware to the Camp Nou museum this summer.
However, everyone in Catalunya must be fully aware that such success will only achieved if the team remains together when difficulties arise and have enough fuel left in the tank when it truly matters. Having Messi and Co. certainly helps in testing times, but it is ultimately down to every individual in the team to take responsibility and deliver.