Barcelona head coach Quique Setien can reflect on what has been a challenging opening chapter at the Camp Nou. Appointed in January of this year the 61-year-old manager – formerly of Real Betis – has won eight and drawn one of his opening dozen games in charge.
Barca sit top of the La Liga table and are well-placed to successfully defend their crown. With season stats showing 18 wins, four draws and five defeats, the pacesetters have 58 points on the board, gifting them a two-point cushion over nearest rivals Real Madrid.
Winning start for Setien
Setien got off to a winning start thanks to a 1-0 home win over Granada on Sunday 19 January and the new face quickly became familiar with the expectations of his new employers. There was little impressive about that debut win – achieved thanks to a second half goal from Lionel Messi – but the three points gained meant the Spaniard got off to a perfect start.
Since edging out Granada, Barcelona’s highlights include 5-0 routs of Leganes and Eibar. The shine was taken off a winning run when losing to Zinedine Zidane’s side on the opening day of March. Late goals from Vinicius Junior and Mariano claimed a 2-0 win for Real Madrid, a result that blew the La Liga title race wide open.
Work to be done
Barca were able to bounce back with a hard-fought 1-0 home win over Real Sociedad in their most recent outing but they now have a fight on their hands if they are to claim a 27th La Liga title. Setien has won four of his last five league matches, but with three of those four being won by a single goal, it’s plain to see Quique has much work to do if he’s to lead Barca to three-in-a-row.
Prior to the suspension of the league, Barcelona were favourites in the La Liga betting; the leaders are priced like they have one hand on the trophy, but the title race remains alive and kicking.
Blancos remain a threat
Nearest rivals Real Madrid lurk within touching distance, ensuring the season is likely to see an exciting finish. Some European leagues, such as the English Premier League and French Ligue 1, look to be a foregone conclusion, but that’s not the case in Spain.
Los Blancos have been far from convincing themselves in 2020, however. The main challengers have won only one of their last four league games, that form made up of two defeats and a draw. After claiming an important three points in El Clasico, Zidane’s troops suffered a painful 2-1 reverse at Real Betis, an opponent ranked 12th in the league. They also suffered a disappointing 2-1 loss at home to Manchester City in Europe so Zidane has a tough task on his hands with a trophyless season being a real possibility.