After another dominant El Clasico performance, and with the Champions League once again the priority, Ernesto Valverde must start tinkering with his squad.
His ‘safety first’ approach will need to take a back seat in a handful of the next few league games as Barca go for it in the European competition.
Though the Catalans can still conceivably be caught in La Liga, both Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid are far enough behind for the Blaugrana to have a blip and still remain as leaders.At this point, Atleti need the table toppers to lose three matches and ensure that they take advantage by winning all three.
Real are four wins behind Barcelona, but their head-to-head record effectively makes it five wins required from Los Blancos.
To put into perspective just what a tough task both Madrid sides have, Barca have to lose – over the course of the next 12 matches – the same amount of league games as they have in over a year and a half under Valverde’s tutelage.
It’s not impossible of course, but you’d have to say it was highly unlikely.
Having already qualified for the Copa del Rey final too, this is the perfect opportunity for the coach to rest his big hitters.
Every single opportunity Valverde gets he should take it, and only contemplate introducing them if a particular game truly calls for it.
Messi’s stated aim at the start of the campaign was the Champions League and the squad must’ve learned their lessons from last season, Suarez being one to come out and admit that he was far too tired when Barca lost to Roma.
That warning can now be heeded.
Valverde will not have a better chance to rotate and give Barca a real shot at the third treble in their history, with respect to any other sides alive in all competitions, and there simply isn’t a good enough reason for him to stick with his tried and tested.
Never the most popular coach with cules in any event, if he should persist with his big names and Barca tumble out of the Champions League, expect a huge backlash from the Camp Nou faithful.