Barça went into the first Clasico of the season having not lost any of their first 8 league matches and yet to concede a goal in domestic play. However, the feel-good factor at Camp Nou would be gone 90 minutes later. Although Neymar gave Barça the lead and silenced the Bernabeu after just 4 minutes, it would be all downhill sailing from there. The teams went in level at the break after Cristiano Ronaldo converted a penalty from a Gerard Pique handball. Five minutes after the restart Pepe headed Los Blancos into the lead and Karim Benzema finished off Barça with a goal off a brilliant counter-attack later on. After this match was the first time Lucho was under severe pressure.
This victory was important because it showed a glimpse of what Messi, Neymar and Suarez could do together. With qualification assured heading into the final group match of the Champions League, Barça needed a victory over the Parisiens to secure first place in the group. Although former Barça man Zlatan Ibrahimović gave PSG the lead in the 14th minute, Lionel Messi equalized 4 minutes later and after that there could be only winner. Barça dominated for the rest of the half but the two sides were tied at the break. However, goals from Neymar and Suarez finished off the French champions. This victory put Barça through to the Champions League round of 16 as Group F winners.
Barcelona’s 2015 started off with a disaster. A 1-0 defeat away to Real Sociedad sent the Camp Nou into crisis. With Messi and Neymar benched due to late returns from their winter vacations, albeit approved by Luis Enrique. Messi missed the open training session the next day with gastroenteritis. However, an old interview with Xavi revealed that the stomach illness was the excuse used by the club when there was a reason the club did not want to divulge. This led to a crisis week at the Camp Nou with cries for Luis Enrique to be fired. However, the Barça board kept the Asturian on and it turned out to be the right decision.
If the PSG victory was when MSN showed their ability to annihilate other teams, the defeat of Atletico Madrid in January was when it was really put to use. When Barça seemed to be in crisis, just a week after the Sociedad defeat, MSN stepped up and turned the season around. First-half goals from Neymar and Suarez put the Blaugrana firmly in control. Although Mario Mandzukic scored a penalty in the second half, Barça kept dominating and Messi sealed off the win with a late goal. After Messi’s goal, the front three peeled off to celebrate, each with their arm around the shoulder of another. This image has come to be one of the most famous from the historic season.
With Barça a point ahead of bitter rivals Real Madrid heading into the final Clasico of the season, the match promised to be a cagey affair. With both teams knowing that a win would make them favorites for the title, it was always going to be one of the more intense Clasicos. When surprise goal-scorer Jeremy Mathieu gave Barça the lead after 19 minutes, the Camp Nou erupted. However, the joy did not last long, with Ronaldo tying the game just 13 minutes later. After this, tempers boiled over with a total of 11 bookings awarded by full-time. Madrid came out roaring after half-time, but Barça struck quickly. In the 56th minute, Dani Alves delivered an outstanding through ball over the top to Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan beautifully controlled the ball with one touch and headed towards goal. While fighting off a defender, Suarez snuck the ball past Iker Casillas and sent the Camp Nou into a frenzy. This victory set Barça on course for their 23rd league title and massively boosted Luis Enrique’s popularity with the fans.
Once again, Barcelona was drawn against PSG in the Champions League, this time in the quarterfinal. The first leg showed how Barça could dominate any team in Europe. A goal from Neymar in the first half had Barça looking in good shape to progress. However, the true magic started in the second half. Twice, Luis Suarez picked up the ball, nutmegged David Luiz and shot past Salvatore Sirigu. Lucho proved himself capable of managing a club deep into the Champions League and Barça continued their march towards the treble with this win.
The whole football world was thrilled when Barcelona drew Pep Guardiola and Bayern Munich in the Champions League semifinal. Although Messi is known to have a very close relationship with the Catalan, he showed no mercy on this night. After 77 minutes, the score was tied at 0-0, a result that favored Bayern greatly. A scoreless draw at the Camp Nou would be a hard platform for Barça to launch off in Munich. But, in the 77th minute, Messi picked up a pass and drove towards goal. He drove a beautiful, low shot into Manuel Neuer’s net. Three minutes later, the world’s best player scored one of the best goals of the season. He got the ball and took on Jerome Boateng, Bayern’s star center-back who had recently claimed that a player who wanted to win the Champions League wouldn’t leave Bayern for Barça. Messi faked left, went right and chipped over the world’s best goalkeeper with his weak foot. However, he wasn’t done. In the final minute of stoppage time, the Argentine picked up the ball after a Bayern set piece and played an exquisite through ball for Neymar. The Brazil captain then nutmegged Neuer and gave Barça a 3-0 lead. Barça would go on to lose 3-2 in Munich and advance to the Champions League final against Juventus.
With the memory of Atletico Madrid winning the League at the Camp Nou exactly a year earlier still fresh in the mind of all Cules, they were all ready to take the title back. And what better time than visiting Atletico themselves? As always when Barça play Atletico, it was a feisty affair, with a total of 8 cards doled out by the referee. Although Barça dominated most of the match, it took a while for the breakthrough to occur. In the 65th minute, Lionel Messi picked up the ball on the edge of the area and took a few steps. The Argentina captain brought back his killer left leg and fired the Blaugrana to title glory. The Barça board’s faith in Luis Enrique had paid off, as he led to the Liga title with great skill.
A week after defeating Athletic Bilbao in the Copa Del Rey Final, Barça was in Berlin to face Juventus in the Champions League Final and try to become the first European team to win two trebles. Although Luis Enrique’s team was heavily favored, they knew it would not be an easy match against the Italians, also looking to win the treble. However, just 4 minutes into the match, Rakitic slotted home to put Barça ahead after some beautiful build-up play. Barça continued to be the better team throughout the first half, however, just ten minutes after the restart former Real Madrid man Alvaro Morata leveled the score. After more attacks from the Italians, Lionel Messi set off on a magnificent run and fired a shot at Gianluigi Buffon who parried. Luis Suarez came running in and pushed the Blaugrana to treble glory with a tap-in. In the 78th minute, Xavi came on for his final appearance for the club he had served for most of his life. With time running out, Neymar hit a superb shot past Buffon, giving the Blaugrana a 3-1 win. From a crisis situation where he seemed set to lose his job just five months ago, to winning the treble, Luis Enrique had defied the odds and achieved an extraordinary feat.
Barcelona went to the Bernabeu this November needing a win to extend their small gap at the top of the table. Although the Blaugrana were slight favorites for the match, no one could have predicted what happened next. Lionel Messi was on the bench, having missed the previous two months with a knee injury, Sergi Roberto took his place on the right wing. It took just 11 minutes for Barcelona to open the scoring, with Sergi Roberto embarking on a magnificent run to set up Luis Suarez, who slotted past Keylor Navas and hushed the Bernabeu. In the 39th minute, Neymar received the ball out wide, cut inside and beautifully nutmegged the Costa Rican goalkeeper to send Cules all over the world to euphoria. Barça fans would have been forgiven for thinking that was that, however, the players weren’t nearly done. In the second half, Iniesta scored an amazing top drawer finish with a back heeled assist from Neymar. Then, Messi came on and helped to set up Suarez’s second goal of the day. Munir missed an easy chance which would have made the score 0-5 and given the Blaugrana a famous manita victory. This was without a doubt one of the proudest days for many Cules.