Barcelona is a team synonymous with success.
Having won seven of the last ten La Liga titles and six of the last ten Copa del Reys, the Catalonians are hardly crying out for silverware.
However, one trophy that has eluded Lionel Messi and company in recent times has been that big old silver one presented to the winners of the UEFA Champions League. The giants of Spanish soccer haven’t had the opportunity to call themselves the undisputed kings of Europe since the conclusion of the 2014/15 season.
That year, everything seemed to go right for Barca.
Among the quality of players in their ranks — such as their beloved captain Andres Iniesta, the stalwart fullback Dani Alves, and club legend Xavi — Barcelona could also boast the most dangerous frontline in world soccer.
In case you can’t remember, their attacking line featured Messi, Luis Suarez, and some Brazilian guy called Neymar. Formidable would be an understatement.
Under the guidance of yet another club legend in Luis Enrique, Barcelona marched to their first treble (domestic league and cup as well as the Champions League) since Pep Guardiola’s class of 2008/09.
Barcelona became the first team to win a domestic and European treble twice in 2015.
Now, the Catalan giants are on the cusp of establishing themselves as the only team in history to achieve a treble three times. That’s no mean feat, especially when you consider that the current Barcelona team is, objectively, nowhere near as good as the teams of 2009 and 2015.
Still, Ernesto Valverde’s team could have the treble wrapped up in just five more games.
The Messi Effect
Lionel Messi is one of the greatest players in the history of “the beautiful game.”
Actually, scrap that — he is the greatest soccer player ever to kick a ball, right? Even if you don’t agree with me, I can’t hear you shout at the screen in frustration.
Seriously, though, for Barcelona, Messi is some player, and he has the achievements to prove it. Now the captain of the team he joined as a kid, Argentina’s star man has a greater responsibility, and with it comes much more pressure.
Unlike other players that might look to take the pressure off themselves when being newly crowned as captain, Messi went the other way.
At the start of the season, the 31-year-old addressed almost 100,000 fans at the Camp Nou before beating Boca Juniors, declaring that Barcelona would “do all we can” to claim the 2018/19 Champions League title.
Having watched bitter rivals Real Madrid win the last three Champions League tournaments, this was beautiful music to the ears of every supporter that heard him speak.
Of course, Barcelona is a team that should be challenging for the Champions League every year. However, this version of the side is not considered to be among the best that have ever worn the famous blue and red stripes.
When we think of the great Barca teams in recent memory, none can come close to the all-conquering outfit of 2008/09. Alongside a growing Messi was the midfield partnership of Xavi and Iniesta, and the likes of Thierry Henry and Samuel Eto’o up front.
Despite a couple of scares, that team went on to win the treble in style. This was arguably the greatest club team in the history of soccer.
Unlike this side — and even the 2014/15 incarnation featuring the lethal “MSN” of Messi, Suarez, and Neymar — the present-tense Barcelona is not a vintage team. That, in itself, will make a treble this season something very special.
Messi’s Individual Contribution
Well, it has been a pretty awesome season so far for Messi.
The Argentine scored his 650th career goal, bagged his 51st hat-trick, and currently has 45 goals and 22 assists to his name.
Not bad at all.
If Messi can keep his exceptional form up during the final stretch of the season, you can’t see anyone else winning the Champions League. The La Liga trophy already looks like it is on its way to the Camp Nou, while the Copa del Rey also looks ripe for Barca’s picking.
Still, nothing has been won yet. There is plenty of work to do to keep their treble hopes alive. We have seen other teams screw up at this stage in the past, so a slip could be disastrous for the Spanish champions.
What Barcelona Needs to Do Next
Looking for odds on Barcelona to win the league? Why bother. They’ll be shorter than an angry grasshopper.
However, when it comes to the Champions League — and to some extent, the Copa del Rey — you might be tempted to wager on things going Barcelona’s way.
First things first, let’s recognize that this team will be aiming to retain their status as champions of Spain and can do this as early as next week.
If Messi’s men can bag a win at home against Levante on Saturday, it will be a case of one down, two to go on their quest to become treble winners.
Goals from Carles Aleñá and Luis Suarez gave Barcelona a win over Alaves on April 23, meaning that they will need just three more points to win the league. It was a fairly comfortable win for Barca and a welcome three points.
Second-placed Atletico Madrid will have no mathematical chance of stopping Barca if the latter manages to win in the Camp Nou against Levante.
As it stands, it looks almost certain that the Spanish champions of last season will be the same guys this time around.
What About the Copa del Rey?
Barcelona to Win+500
Valencia to Win+350
These odds are provided by Bovada sports and are subject to change.
Speaking of change, there hasn’t been a name other than Barcelona on the Copa del Rey trophy since 2014. In many ways, this trophy seems to be quite content with sitting idle behind glass at the Camp Nou.
In order for Barcelona to keep it there, they will need to dispatch a decent Valencia team in the 2019 Copa del Rey Final on May 25, 2019.
The 117th edition of Spain’s main domestic cup will be played at Estadio Benito Villamarín in Seville. You can guarantee two things about this game: the weather will be blazing, and Barcelona will be confident of winning their fifth Copa del Rey in a row.
If you are betting on Barcelona to win the treble, this will effectively be the second step towards achieving it.
This stage of the tournament is familiar grounds for Barca, seeing as it is their sixth consecutive final. A win would give them a fifth consecutive Copa del Rey championship, which would be a new record.
Can they do it?
I think Barcelona has more than enough in their arsenal of weaponry to see off this Valencia side, and I predict a confident win as a result.
How Barcelona Can Win the Champions League
The third and final piece in this puzzle is, of course, winning the UEFA Champions League.
In order to make the final, they will have to beat Liverpool in the semi-final of the tournament.
With the toughest semi-final draw they could get, Messi’s magic will certainly be required. However, the entire team will need to raise their game to overcome Klopp’s men and make it to the final.
The odds below relate to Liverpool’s semi-final first leg at the Camp Nou on May 1.
Barcelona to Win-125
Liverpool to Win+330
Liverpool is currently second in the EPL and has been quietly impressive in this year’s European competition. Jurgen Klopp’s men are a solid team punctuated by a very good defense. They have a creative midfield and a very pacey forward line that can cause a lot of damage.
The key for Barcelona will be this first leg. If they can prevent Liverpool from scoring while scoring themselves, they will feel a lot more confident about winning at Anfield in the return leg.
Can they do it?
Barcelona is the best team in this tournament. They are the favorites for the Champions League for a reason and will be more than likely to lift the cup.
Still, with three other teams all feeling as though it’s also their year, Barca will need a big performance over both legs of the Champions League semi-finals to lift the cup.
So, Will Barcelona Win the Treble?
Yes, I believe they will.
The Catalonian giants have the league almost wrapped up and will face a solid but very beatable Valencia in the Copa del Rey Final. Messi and company will likely have too much for Los Ches on the day.
That leaves us with the Champions League.
I believe that Liverpool will be very tough opponents for Barca and arguably the strongest team that they have faced this season. Barcelona has not lost a game in the Champions League in 2018/19 and will be keen to keep this run carrying through the next three games in the competition.
If Messi can keep his excellent form up and rouse the troops around him, it is hard to see anything other than Barcelona progressing to the final and beating the winner of Tottenham Hotspur vs. Ajax.
The quality is there, and so is a genuine belief in the squad.
If they can achieve this historic third treble with arguably the weakest team they have had for some time, this would make it even more special.
Barcelona is a team that can dare to think big.
While they are no longer the terrifying masters of the game that they became under Pep Guardiola — or no longer propelled by the exploits of Messi, Suarez, and Neymar’s “MSN” — they are still a formidable force.
When Lionel Messi is your captain and star player, things tend to happen.
If Messi can push his troops into the final few battles with the type of drive that wins matches, we should see Barcelona win that treble.
Will Barcelona Win the Treble in 2019?
Although Lionel Messi’s Barcelona is no stranger to success, would a treble with this particular squad represent a huge achievement?