Barcelona welcome Huesca to Camp Nou on Monday evening in La Liga for a clash that’s taken on a whole new significance following events in the Spanish capital last night. Real Madrid came back from a goal down to beat Elche while Atletico Madrid drew 0-0 at Getafe, meaning that the title race took on a whole new flavour.
Barcelona are now in third, with a game in hand on both Madrid and Atletico and having won four of their last five. They’re a point behind the former and seven behind the latter, meaning victory would see them leapfrog Madrid and move to within four points of Atletico. That’s a statement that would have been unthinkable only a matter of months ago, but that’s the way things are.
Ronald Koeman’s men crashed out of the Champions League against Paris Saint-Germain last week, but put in one of their best performances of the season in the 1-1 second leg. They’ll hope Monday evening’s clash with bottom-placed Huesca will be an opportunity to record the first victory of newly-elected president Joan Laporta’s reign following his victory last weekend.
“I can’t say much,” Koeman said when asked about Jordi Cruyff’s possible arrival at Barcelona in comments carried by Mundo Deportivo. “The president has to decide his team in the important positions. I know him and his family well and he may be a candidate, but I don’t know. When the president takes office, they’ll talk about positions in the club.”
Koeman was, however, more open about the qualities of Frenkie de Jong. “He’ll be here for many years,” the Dutchman said about his compatriot. “His improvement is there and he feels more responsible at Barcelona. Although he’s young, he’s taking more and more responsibility in games and I like that. To be a foreigner, you have to make a difference, and he’s doing it. He’s having a very good season. You cannot ask for more than for him to continue doing things as he has been.”
Koeman was keen to disregard any idea that there would have been celebrations at Barcelona after Atletico’s draw with Getafe. “It’s not necessary to laugh at others,” he said. “You have to focus on yourself. The team has been involved [in the title race] for a long time and not because of the results of others. Everyone is plugged in and they want to be involved, even the injured players. That shows on the field, that atmosphere and energy. It’s incredible looking at the data of how the team are physically. We’ve improved our game without the ball. Huesca are bottom but I’ve seen several games of theirs and they cause problems.”