Consistency seems to be a word closely associated with la Blaugrana under the stewardship of Guardiola. Looking to bounce back from their defeat at the hands of Real Betis in the Copa del Rey in midweek, they were up against a Santander side who have only won once away from El Sardinero all season and have only won two games since the end of October. The champions could not have wished for nicer opposition against whom they could ease back into title-winning form.
Despite the expectation, the manager was keen to stress the importance of the win. He said “After losing the last game and the effort we put in, this was a potentially tricky game. Both the players and the fans responded in an exceptional manner.”
The manner of that response was immediate: The game was just two minutes old when Pedro converted a cross from the mercurial Messi. The Argentine then made amends for his inexplicable penalty miss against Betis when he added a second from the spot after half an hour. When Iniesta scored the third of the night on 66 minutes, the home side were cruising to victory.
This winning mentality is one of the cornerstones of Barcelona’s success. On both occasions that Guardiola’s charges have lost this season, they have responded by winning their next fixture. After their first defeat, a 2-0 reverse at home to newly-promoted Hercules in September, Barca went on to win their next game 5-1 against Panathinaikos in the Champions League and then went on to gain maximum points from their next three matches.
Guardiola also declared that it was an honour to have equalled the record set by Frank Rijkaard’s team of 2005/06, notching up their fourteenth consecutive victory in the league. The similarities with today’s team and the side from five years ago are there for all to see. Rijkaard’s side had only lost two games in all competitions by this point of the season too. The bad news is that en-route to a treble of League, Cup and Champions League, they proceeded to lose another five league games, their consistency crumbling compared to the iron-clad resolve that saw them through the first half of the season.
Aside from the visit of Atletico Madrid to the Camp Nou, there is every chance that Barcelona will break that record with matches (albeit away from home) against Hercules and Sporting Gijon, two teams in the lower half of the table, to come.