By Ralph Chery
They might not be doing it in their usual dominating fashion but Barcelona are on the verge of breaking yet another significant record. They are just one game away from surpassing the club record of the longest unbeaten run to start a La Liga season.
The Blaugrana side equaled their record of 21 league games undefeated, set under Pep Guardiola in 2009-10, in a 2-1 win over Deportivo Alaves on Sunday.
Barca’s chance to break their own record comes in an away match against Espanyol at RCDE Stadium on Sunday at 10:15 a.m.
Coincidentally, FCB lost its first match of the season against Espanyol 1-0 at RCDE Stadium in a Copa del Rey clash three weeks ago.
Barca will still have some way to go to beat the all-time La Liga undefeated record – Real Sociedad won their first 32 league games in 1979-1980.
Defeating Alaves to match their 2009-10 record was one of Barcelona’s toughest battles this campaign as the team was uncharacteristically down by a goal from the 23rd to the 72nd minute.
“The way the match unfolded made it one of the hardest we have played in,” Andres Iniesta said in a post-match conference. “Football is like this sometimes, it looks like we have done enough but the opposition are very well prepared.”
John Guidetti netted the opener for Alaves before Luis Suarez levelled the scoring in the second half. Lionel Messi scored the winner six minutes from time with a stunning free-kick to grant Barca the three-points and to ensure that the team’s undefeated streak remained intact.
The La Liga toppers had to claw back to keep their non-losing run alive six times this season. The most notable comeback wins were when the team drew with second placed Atletico Madrid 1-1 on Oct. 14th with Luis Suarez’s 82nd minute equalizer, the 1-1 draw with third placed Valencia through another 82nd minute leveler scored by Jordi Alba this time on Nov. 26th and more recently Enersto Valverde’s men rallied back from two goals to down Real Sociedad 4-2.
Valverde noted that his players bounced back from the one-goal deficit against Alaves because of their fighting spirit.
“We managed to turn the game around not because of any specific changes we made but because the whole team worked hard,” the 53-year-old said.
Lionel Messi is the most influential player in the Copa del Rey champions’ unbeaten run in the league as he’s the top scorer of La Liga with 20 goals and the top provider with nine assists. Luis Suarez has also been instrumental in the undefeated run, scoring 16 goals as well as Jordi Alba and Sergi Roberto who racked six assists each.
Sergio Busquests has also been key in the blaugrana side’s success. Busquets only owns one league-goal and three assists but has been a reliable force in front of Barca’s backline with his expertise of passing the ball under pressure and ability to cover space.
The Spanish defensive midfielder missed the Alaves game due to an illness. SB Nation Blaugranes editor Gill Clark mentioned Busquets’ absence as a major factor in Barcelona going down a goal in the 23rd minute against Alaves.
Barcelona are also close to breaking their record of scoring the most goals in a La Liga season, which they set in 2016-17 with 116 goals in 38 games (3.05 goals/game). As of now Barca netted 59 goals in 21 games, which amounts to 2.80 goals per game.
On the defensive end, the 24-time La Liga champions are also on track to surpass their record of the least goals conceded in La Liga in a season, which they established in 2010-11, allowing 21 goals in 38 games (0.55 goals per game). The team has let in 10 goals in 21 domestic matches (0.47 goals per game) so far this season.