Barcelona legend Carles Puyol believes former club can still win domestic double
Catalan club won only one of last five La Liga games and out of Champions League
Real Madrid great Raul believes Zinedine Zidane is catalyst to club's recent good form
Despite a difficult few weeks, Barcelona legend Carles Puyol believes his former club can still achieve a “brilliant season.”
A dramatic El Clasico defeat by Real Madrid on April 2 precipitated the evaporation of a seemingly unassailable seven-point lead at the top of La Liga and, to make matters worse, the Catalan club also suffered a quarterfinal Champions League exit at the hands of Spanish rival Atletico Madrid.
“These are terrible moments in the season,” the 38-year-old, who played 663 times for Barca, told CNN at the Laureus Awards in Berlin earlier in the week. “But I believe Barcelona is a great team – for me they are the best.
“This bad form has arrived at the worst time, just as the titles are being decided. Although, La Liga and the Copa (del Rey) still remain and to win both of these in one season would still make it a brilliant season.”
The shaggy-haired central defender played for Barcelona his entire career, accumulating a trophy cabinet that would make most professional footballers’ eyes water.
His three Champions League trophies, six La Liga titles, two Copa del Rey triumphs, two European Super Cups, two Club World Cups and six Spanish Super Cups won over a 15-year career make him one of the most successful players in Barcelona’s history.
“But this is football,” Puyol muses philosophically, alluding to Barca’s one La Liga victory in its last five games and that surprise Champions League exit, which robbed Luis Enrique’s team of the chance to win successive European Cup titles. “And you can’t always be at the maximum level.”
Catalonia native Puyol, who captained Barcelona for over 10 years, also argued bad form isn’t the only factor at play.
“No, there are also difficult rivals,” he explains. “We lost against Atletico Madrid and were eliminated by a fantastic team in a very difficult knockout round.”
Raul and Real
Real Madrid, conversely, has been unstoppable of late.
Despite a brief hiccup in the Champions League quarterfinal first leg against Wolfsburg, Zinedine Zidane’s men have won eight league games in a row to catapult themselves to within one point of Barcelona at the summit.
And Raul, who scored 323 goals in 741 appearances for Los Blancos over an 18-year career, believes his former teammate turned coach has been the catalyst to Real’s recent success.
“Zinedine Zidane has arrived and is doing a great job,” the three-time Champions League winner said.
“He has suddenly got Real Madrid fighting for La Liga and the Champions League. I know him well, wish him all the best and hope he has a lot of success.”
The Spanish giant will attempt to make it nine successive La Liga wins when it travels to Rayo Vallecano Saturday, while Barcelona and Atletico Madrid travel to Sporting Gijon and Malaga, respectively, later that evening.