Ronald Koeman had an extra job right after the game. He noticed from the stands – he had been sent off with a direct red during the match – that his players left the pitch saddened and crestfallen, with the morale on the ground and with the feeling that they had lost the title. The Dutch coach, attentive to all the details, quickly met with the captains to ask them to step forward and cheer on their teammates. The Koeman message they had to convey to the group was as clear as it was direct: “If we win in Valencia, we win LaLiga“.
This message quickly penetrated the staff, which went from discouragement to conviction in a few hours. The match against Granada it was a unique opportunity to storm the leadership and to be the clear favorites to win the title this season, but the game against Valencia this Sunday will define whether Barcelona wants this league or not.
With this resounding message the spirits of a locker room absolutely sunk and demoralized after the defeat. This Friday, at the reunion after losing to Granada, the faces were still serious and frowned upon, but there was also the feeling that a battle had been lost, but not the war.
In fact, more than not being leaders in the absence of five days, what most upset the players is to stop depending on themselves. “The most screwed up is knowing that we have lost the power to depend on ourselvesNow we will have to look at what others are doing, “assumed one of the heavyweights of the squad. That dependence is the one that has left more doubts in the locker room, much more than the fact of the defeat itself.
Now the match against Valencia at Mestalla appears on the Blaugrana horizon as the most decisive of the season, the one that will mark the future of the team in LaLiga. If the ‘che’ team is beaten, it would be a morale boost towards the four remaining games, with the most immediate on the horizon: Atlético de Madrid at the Camp Nou.
But the great 'enemy' of Barcelona is curiously not the leader, Atlético, but the Real Madrid, with whom he is tied at 71 points. And is that the white team right now he is responsible for Barça not depending on itself to win the title, having lost the particular ‘goal average’ with the Madrid team. But in the Blaugrana dressing room they are also convinced that Real Madrid has reached this final stretch of the season with the deposit under minimums and that If they have to use up the little gasoline they have left, it will be in the Champions League, leaving the LaLiga competition parked.
So, now more than ever, the topic of all coaches when they refer to the next game as the most important, makes sense in each and every one of their words. In Valencia you can win or lose LaLiga. And with that pressure but also motivation, the players will come out to play this Sunday.