Can the Catalans be defeated?
3 years ago, Barcelona were being talked about as the best team to ever play football. Their tiki-taka style of play could take any defence to pieces, they had a young Pep Guardiola as their manager who had incredible talent, knowledge and leadership, and to top it all off, the best player in the world. They were near-enough unbeatable, even against the top teams, and nobody could stop them. In Pep’s 4 years as Barca manager he won 14 titles (3 La Ligas, 2 Champions Leagues, 3 Spanish super cups, 2 European super cups, 2 club world cups and 2 Spanish cups), as well as individual awards such as world manager of the year and even Catalan of the year. Bara won the league, Champions League and Spanish cup treble in 2008/2009 and he had a 72% win rate in his time. Figures like this were almost unseen before in European football, and they were regarded as the greatest team ever. It seemed like a perfect formula; a world-class squad, a great manager and an unstoppable style of play. It should have lasted for years, but it didn’t.
After losing the league title to rivals Real Madrid and their notorious manager Jose Mourinho, Guardiola quit and left football for a year, claiming that the Barcelona job was “too stressful” and that he “needed a break”. It was a difficult time for Barca, but the job was given to Peps right-hand man, Tito Vilanova. He had worked with Pep throughout these successful years and knew the clubs philosophy and players inside out.
The fans were sure that nothing would change; they would carry on as normal, as the best team in the world. However, things were never quite the same after Pep left. This can be partly put down to the extremely saddening times when Vilanova had to take time off to have treatment for cancer. It shocked the footballing world, no more so than Barca. They missed a leader on the training pitch and in the dressing room, and things just weren’t the same. Despite winning the league, the top European teams started to find ways to stop their supposedly unbeatable tiki-taka football, and they were knocked out of the Champions League by Chelsea, who despite being dominated in both legs, overcame Barca thanks to solid defending and clinical finishing.
It was a very successful season for the Catalunians, but people started to notice that it just wasn't the same without Pep. And it got worse. Last season (2012/2013) They were completely destroyed in the Champions League by a mesmerising Bayern team that was to be inherited by Pep himself. It finished 7-0 on aggregate, including a 3-0 demolishing in their very own Camp Nou, where they were normally so consistent. Their style had been quashed by sheer athleticism and ability, and this is what City must do. They have a squad that should be competing against any team in Europe, and if they have the right mentality and get their tactics right, they can beat Barcelona. It is easier said than done, but if Messi is kept quiet by strong marking from players like Fernandinho, Vincent Kompany or even James Milner, then City have a huge chance.
Barcas defence has had its problems, and with a strikeforce of Sergio Aguero and Alvaro Negredo that will be adequately supplied by Citys strong midfield, mistakes from the Barcelona defence will be punished. Take their chances, and City will have a huge advantage if they can defend well and give their all on the pitch. The home tie will be crucial for City, as their home form this season has been phenomenal, and the tie could be theirs if they perform at the Etihad. The task ahead may be an uphill one, but by no means can it be called impossible. Get ready Barca.
Will has his own blog which you can check out here http://bookhimreferee.wordpress.com/