Do you ever have one of those Saturdays where you realize that it just isn't going to be your team's season? Yesterday was that day for Barcelona. Barca came into the day two points ahead of Real Madrid. Real have been playing the better football in 2010, although their faceplant at the Stade Gerland is evidence that the Merengues are hardly infallible. Most importantly, Real have a torrid striker - Gonzalo Higuain - who is burying chance after chance created by Ronaldo, Kaka, and Xabi Alonso. Barca, on the other hand, have Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who looks slow and out of sorts. Even when Ibra broke his duck by scoring a critical equalizer against Stuttgart in the Champions League, he did so after hammering a shot at point blank range straight at Mad Jens Lehmann, only to see the ball come right back to his feet.
Yesterday, the divergent directions of the two teams came into full view. Barca dropped two points at mid-table Almeria, twice going behind because of errors by my beloved Carles Puyol. (Maybe I was a little hasty in pointing the declining icon finger at John Terry? Lord, I hope not.) Leo Messi led the team back twice. Ibra did nothing, save for flubbing a header when Andres Iniesta found him with a great cross and then getting sent off (albeit for a foul that was barely a yellow, let alone a straight red). With the exception of Eric Abidal, Barca played as good a starting XI as it can deploy, so injuries and rotations cannot be the cause for the dropped points.
Then, Real, channeling the Carolina/Notre Dame tendency for heroic comebacks that drove me insane in my sports fan youth, came from 0-2 down at home against Sevilla to win 3-2, with the winner coming in injury time. Moreover, Real looked like a fantastic attacking machine. This was not the Real side that lucked its way into win after win last season before Barca put them in their place. This was a team that looked like, well, a team assembled for the GNP of Gabon. They also looked like a team that will win La Liga. I hope like hell I'm wrong, but the trend line worries me.