The Blaugrana have suffered this term but have managed to turn it around in all but one game despite defensive problems which have already threatened to derail their campaign
By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer
The run of results has been simply spectacular. In 13 games this season, Tito Vilanova's Barcelona team have won 11, drawn one and lost only one, too. But just like the final outcome of Tuesday's Champions League clash at home to Celtic, that doesn't quite tell the whole story.
The Blaugrana began without a host of regulars on Tuesday. Missing arguably their entire first-choice defence, with Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique injured, along with Dani Alves and long-term absentee Eric Abidal, Vilanova was also deprived of the services of suspended holding midfielder Sergio Busquets.
And having already conceded twice the amount of goals that they had at this point last season, including four in a nine-goal thriller at Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday, that presented quite a problem for the Catalan coach. To address it, he brought in Alex Song into midfield, paired Javier Mascherano with the seemingly untrusted Marc Bartra in central defence, fielded Adriano at right-back and Jordi Alba on the opposite side.
Barcelona's resilient side
|2||Twice this season Barca have scored the winner deep into added time: against Sevilla and Celtic|
|3||The Catalans have gone behind in all three games against Madrid this term: one win, one loss and one draw|
|4||In their coach's 12th game in charge on Saturday, Barca let in four. This happened just once in 247 matches under Pep Guardiola|
|6||Bartra and Mascherano was the side's sixth central defensive partnership already in 2012-13|
|7||In total, Barcelona have gone behind in seven of their matches this season, winning five of those|
|13||Tito Vilanova has taken charge of 13 games so far, winning 11, losing one and drawing the other|
And it was from one of those deliveries that Celtic took the lead, when Georgios Samaras won a header in the box and saw it duly diverted into the corner by Mascherano. The goal was given to the Greek, but it probably should not have been.
It was unfortunate for the Argentine, not having the best of weeks after his unlucky red card at Deportivo. He had an otherwise good game, however, and has found a promising partner in Bartra, who has been used surprisingly little this term despite all of the side's defensive difficulties.
But while Barca's back line may have looked unfamilar, the side found themselves faced with a scenario they have come to know only too well in 2012-13 - being behind.
Tito's team have conceded first in seven of their 13 games so far this term but have discovered a new-found resilience which has seen them win five of those games and lose just once all season.
The Catalans went one up early on in their first match of the season, at home to Real Sociedad, and despite conceding soon afterwards were 3-1 ahead after just 15 minutes before going on to win 5-1.
Then, in the first Camp Nou Clasico, Barca conceded first to Real Madrid but recovered rapidly to win 3-2. In the return leg, however, they were unable to come back after going two down, although Lionel Messi came within inches of a leveller which would have clinched the Spanish Supercopa as he curled a late effort agonisingly wide, having earlier pulled one back with a free kick.
In between those two games, there was a 2-1 win at Osasuna which saw Messi strike twice in the last 15 minutes after Joseba Llorente had put the northerners in front in the first period. The first goal had looked offside, but Barca had seen decisions go against them earlier in the game, too.
An uninspiring 1-0 win at home to Valencia followed as Adriano - of all people - hit the only goal of the game with a screamer midway through the first half. And there was no problem in their next fixture as Getafe were swept away in a 4-1 thrashing.
But back at Camp Nou in Tito's Champions League debut, Barca were made to work hard once more, this time coming from 2-1 down to claim all three points thanks to two late Messi strikes against Spartak Moscow. And in La Liga a few days after that, the Catalans left it later still as two goals inside the final four minutes sealed a hard-fought win over Granada which looked to be heading for a 0-0 draw as fans began to trickle out of the club's famous old stadium.
On the road in Andalusia after that in late September, they came close - desperately in fact - to losing in La Liga as they were 2-1 down with a minute left. But Gary Medel's 72nd-minute dismissal had handed them the initiative and after Cesc Fabregas levelled, David Villa struck the winner in added time. The red card had been harsh, however, and Barca had definitely got out of jail.
An easy 2-0 victory at Benfica ensued in early October, before Barca found themselves behind to Cristiano Ronaldo in another Clasico at home a few days later, in an entertaining encounter which they later led 2-1 but finished all square at 2-2.
Following the international break came the crazy 5-4 win at Deportivo on Saturday when Tito's team were persecuted by several strange decisions but also lost concentration and contributed to their own capitulation at the back as Victor Valdes fumbled and Alba put past his goalkeeper late on. It was, said Vilanova, not good enough.
Tuesday was better and the winning goal even came from a defender: Alba. But still Barca seem vulnerable. Given that the Mascherano-Bartra tandem was the side's sixth central defensive partnership of the season, however, that is perhaps understandable.
Time will tell, then, whether the problems run deeper, as players return from their spells on the sidelines. In the meantime, Vilanova will be concerned that his team are going behind in games so often this term, but also happy his players have the strength of character and resilience to win from a losing position.