Luis Enrique's Barcelona are the best team in Spanish football history
After extending their unbeaten run to a magnificent 35 games, the current Barcelona team certainly have a case to be considered the best team in the history of Spanish football. Since the domestic league was established back in 1928, there have been plenty of winning teams that can be remembered as legendary, but no other side has ever had a more devastating attack than the current Barca.
Although many romantic Cules would never admit to any other side ever coming close to the brilliance of Pep Guardiola's six-cup-winning team, the unpredictable trident of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar is the key difference that tilts the balance in favour of Luis Enrique's side. Their contagious creativity, almost telepathic connection and cold-hearted composure in front of goal makes them virtually unstoppable, much more effective than any other team in over 87 years of La Liga.
Despite rival managers being fully aware of the attacking threat Barca's MSN trident pose, nobody has been able to find the antidote for their venomous bite. Whether they are faced with an aggressive back line, an ultra-defensive parked bus formation or a braver team trying to challenge them for the overall control of possession, the overwhelming superiority brought by the Blaugranas' front-three gives this team the edge.
The current Barca team could be extremely successful just because of their world-class individual talents. However, it is this club's team-first mentality, their solidarity when in need and their relentless ambition that make them deserving of the historic treble from last season and the indisputable favourites for an unprecedented repeat in the current one.
Perhaps more importantly, Luis Enrique's side has reached a level of maturity and self-belief that makes them as close to perfection as Spanish football lovers have ever seen. Their ability to remain calm, faithful to their traditional passing style even when chasing the game, and concentrated fully regardless of the opponents they may be facing, is a true testament to the manager's influence and high expectations.
In clear contrast to record-breaking sides of past generations, the current Barca understands when to change the tempo of their game. Whenever their rivals seem to be getting comfortable defending against continued passing transitions, they are capable of changing their speed and style almost immediately. Simpler through balls, improved fluidity in the middle of the park, more direct runs behind defenders' backs or two-against-one triangular combinations are proven strategies that usually tip the balance in the Cules' favour.
With the exception of recovering youngster Rafinha, it is reassuring to see that Barca have reached the decisive final third of the season with the vast majority of stars tantalisingly close to their best in terms of fitness and confidence. Kudos to Luis Enrique for overcoming the many injuries at the beginning of the season with such a well-planned, effective rotation policy.
Given the rich variety of talent at the manager's disposal and the team's record-breaking run of late, it is easy to understand the unstoppable wave of euphoria currently surrounding the club. However, the best way for fans to show their support is to in fact remain humble, taking every match as it comes and be thankful for witnessing history being made week in, week out.
On a far less positive note, it looks as if Barca's seemingly uncontainable team have finally found their Achilles' heel. Having only converted a shocking 10 of the 18 penalties they have been granted so far this season, it is certainly time for an urgent improvement. Considering their impressive accuracy when the ball is in play, it is both bizarre and puzzling to see all of Messi, Suarez and Neymar struggling to convert from the spot with only the goalkeeper to beat.
It is unclear whether the solution is Luis Enrique choosing a sole penalty-taker rather than allowing the front three to decide among themselves or just trusting Ivan Rakitic, given his proven record while at Sevilla. One thing is certain: It is unacceptable for a team of Barca's calibre to have such an embarrassing return from the spot.
Fortunately, Barca have been strong enough in recent times to compensate for their horrendous penalty-taking. However, the manager must take immediate action to ensure his players are ready for an eventual shootout, particularly from a mental point of view. With rivals becoming more dangerous and stakes increasing as the decisive stages approach, it would be hugely disappointing to see this seemingly invincible team fall due to lack of focus from the penalty spot.
Barcelona will have the opportunity to extend their record run when they face eighth-placed Eibar at the Ipurua Stadium on Sunday. The courageous Basques will undoubtedly give their all on the pitch to achieve a positive result against the Catalans, but given their dominant form of late, it would be hard to bet against the leaders continuing on their journey to rewrite history by adding another three points to their already spectacular tally.