Something momentous happened on Saturday: Real Madrid beat Barcelona. I've written about the depth of passion in this rivalry before, but this Real win took on some extra importance. Real had a four-point lead in the La Liga table going into the match, with just a handful of games left. Their win (and their ridiculous form all season) pretty much ensures the title will be on the AVE back to Madrid in a few weeks.
But even beyond that, the match followed Barcelona's 1-0 loss to Chelsea in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final a few days earlier, and you have to go back to May of 2009 for the last time Barca lost two matches in a row (and those matches were played with second-stringers after the title had already been one). This team has swept aside all before them over the past few years, picking up 13 trophies in the last three and a half years, and done it with stylish, attacking football.
Last week's match versus Chelsea was a frustrating one for Barcelona. They enjoyed 79% of possession and managed 24 shots to Chelsea's 4. But Didier Drogba was able to put away the London team's single shot on goal, whereas Barca wasted several great opportunities, hit the crossbar and a post, and walked away empty-handed. The Clasico match on Sunday was very similar, with Barcelona carving out plenty of chances, but failing to convert, and Madrid broke on the counter and was ruthless in front of goal.
Is there a crisis at Barcelona? Sure, even if only by the high standards the team has set for itself. Despite those 13 trophies, the season really comes down to Tuesday's semi-final second leg. It doesn't matter that Barcelona already has three pieces of silverware this season (the European Super Cup, the Spanish Super Cup and the World Club Championship), and has the Spanish Cup final yet to come. Losing the Liga title and falling out of the Champions League represents failure for Barcelona.
Real provided a second data point for Chelsea on how to beat Barcelona, but in truth, both teams' game plans relied on some fallibility from the blaugrana. Again, that's a measure of just how good this team is. Beating them doesn't take just a good gameplan and perfect execution; you've got to hope for them to screw up a bit, as well. The odds would say this won't happen three times in a row (and indeed, British bookies have Barcelona as a 2/7 favorite to win the match).
This really is a defining moment for Barcelona. On the face of it, this squad has little left to prove; it's undoubtedly been the best in the world the last few seasons. And while La Liga may have come and gone, Barca has the chance to salvage its season by turning the Chelsea tie around and showing that it may be down, but not out.
In the other semi-final, Real Madrid is looking to turn around a 2-1 loss to Bayern Munich in their second leg on Wednesday. A last-minute Mario Gomez goal gave Bayern the win, but Real will certainly be feeling confident coming off their victory at Barcelona and feel like they have a good chance to win the match and the tie at home, meaning there's a good chance we could see one more Clasico this season, played in Munich to decide the Champions League winner.