Barcelona beats Valencia, breaks La Liga record with unbeaten season in sight

Barcelona’s Philippe Coutinho set up Luis Suarez for a pretty goal against Valencia on Saturday. (Reuters)

There has not been one single moment that brought a Barcelona unbeaten season into focus. There has not been one win that single-handedly enabled the possibility. But if there is a moment that made it seem real – a moment when Barcelona’s invariable point-getting compelled the entire soccer world to take notice – it very well might be Saturday.

The Blaugrana broke one La Liga record with a win over Valencia, and took another big step toward a second, more prominent place in the history books. Its 2-1 victory at Camp Nou was its 39th consecutive La Liga game without a loss, dating back to last spring. That’s now the longest streak in Spanish top flight history.

But more importantly, a full 38-game campaign without a loss appears to be a very realistic possibility. No La Liga side has ever completed one. Barcelona is six games away. It is seemingly less dominant than its former 21st-century selves, but results suggest otherwise.

Valencia provided a stiff test, and in the end a prototypical example of Barcelona’s continued ability to get results. For significant stretches of Saturday’s match, the visitors were more active and proactive; they were on the front foot; they magnified Barca’s slightly troubling, conservative, defensive-minded evolution.

But Barca had the quality that told. Philippe Coutinho slipped in Luis Suarez on one of Barcelona’s first forays forward:


Early in the second half, Samuel Umtiti turned a still-balanced match into a comfortable afternoon out on the town for the league-leaders:


Valencia had more shots and arguably better ones, but Marc-Andre Ter Stegen acrobatically turned away several. Goncalo Guedes and Rodrigo were menacing but not clinical. Not until an 87th-minute penalty was Ter Stegen’s clean sheet dirtied. Barca, though, was able to hold on.

There are still obstacles left on its calendar. Chief among them is Real Madrid, which will visit Catalonia in early May with a shot to derail its rival’s shot at history. Barca will also host Villarreal and Real Sociedad, and travel to Celta Vigo, Deportivo La Coruna and Levante.

But only three of those six fixtures look lose-able. And although Barcelona has looked far from dominant, even on Saturday, it continues to ward off predictions of its demise. It garnered attention this past week for its failure. Now, though, it’s time to turn our attention to its potential for historic success.

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Henry Bushnell covers global soccer, and occasionally other ball games, for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at henrydbushnell@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell.

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