Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Barcelona the team to avoid in Champions League

author: Ian Hawkey
source: The Sunday Times, Times Online
date: 15 March 2009
editing: fcbtransfers.blogspot.com

Thierry Henry left the field early and exited the dressing room late. An exhilarating excess of adrenaline explained both departures. Henry had scored Barcelona’s first two goals in an entertaining 5-2 win over Olympique Lyonnais and, with the outcome comfortably secured, Pep Guardiola, answered Henry’s request to withdraw him. It also allowed Barça fans to stand up and applaud a brilliant individual display, Henry’s 19th and 20th goals of the season.

Once he and his team had set off down the tunnel, past the chapel at Camp Nou, the television set in a jubilant changing room was switched to the Sportmania channel. On the screen, Henry’s old Arsenal friends were in action. Henry and his new friends watched, though only Yaya Toure (brother of Arsenal Captain Kolo Toure) looked at the screen with the same engrossed, emotional engagement as the Frenchman. Henry regarded all eight Arsenal efforts in the shootout with fraternal instincts. He felt delight at the result.

Henry may have mixed feelings should the next Champions League broadcast he watches, bring Arsenal and Barcelona into collision in the quarter-finals. More people than ever in Catalonia now recognise Henry as the superstar they were promised when a long pursuit of the forward finally came to fruition in the summer of 2007. They longed for his Arsenal form because they saw only sporadic signs of the talent that for eight years decorated the Premier League.

To describe his brace of goals against Lyons as typical Henry goals means they were goals that reminded Frenchmen, Englishmen and Catalans of what he does best, measuring his runs to beat a defensive line, finishing with sang-froid. On Wednesday, Henry moved with a freedom that injuries have often curtailed in his era as a Barça footballer. He covered nearly 8km during his 75 minutes, up and down the left wing and in and out of the penalty area. He also set up Samuel Eto’o for Barcelona’s fourth goal, struck before half-time.

Building on a 1-1 draw from the away leg, Barça were superb in attack, just as they have been for most of the season. Henry’s 20 goals count as a small landmark in the heavy statistical load Barça can throw at all comers. Eto’o and Leo Messi each passed 20 some weeks ago. The team have scored 28 goals in 10 Champions League matches this season. Similarly, they average just under three goals a match in the domestic league where they went into the weekend on top, six points clear of Real Madrid. Anybody who watched Madrid in midweek though may feel inclined to snort that La Liga’s standards must have fallen if the anaemic parade of white ghosts at Anfield represent Spain’s silver medallists.

The development of the team since Guardiola took over from Frank Rijkaard can be measured in sharper routines, greater speed and more attention on attacking set-pieces, although some of the flaws the squad have carried for years are still there. Last Wednesday, Barcelona allowed the diminutive Jean Makoun, unpoliced at a corner, to head Lyons’ first goal. Juninho’s direct free kick, finding goalkeeper Victor Valdes badly positioned, had given Lyon a lead in the first leg in France, so Barcelona can look untidy against dead-ball maneuvers. They can also seem vulnerable against nimble strikers: Rafa Marquez, is a fine passer from the centre of defence but has strung together a chain of errors lately at the back and Valdes suffers from periodic wobbles. They have injuries at the back, too. Carles Puyol, the captain, hopes to have shaken off his problems by the time of the quarter-finals, while Gabriel Milito, the rugged centre-half, has missed most of the campaign. Gerard Pique, recruited from Manchester United last July, has been an impressive enough stand-in as to be capped by Spain.

Pique, naturally, says United seem to him the toughest possible obstacle to Barcelona progressing to the final. He said "The first half against Lyon was probably the best opening 45 minutes I have been involved in. If I had to choose a favourite from the Premiership clubs, it would be United”. Barça’s creative midfielder Eidur Gudjohnsen is wary of meeting his former colleagues from Chelsea. “This Barcelona is the best bunch of players I’ve worked with but I don’t want to say they are all better than my teammates at Chelsea.”

For a squad only mildly altered since last summer there are plenty of fresh recollections that might be stirred by an Anglo-Catalan quarter-final. Barcelona, overcame Chelsea before winning the competition in 2006, when they defeated Henry’s Arsenal in the final in Paris. The following year, Liverpool knocked them out, thanks in large part to a mistake by Valdes. Barcelona outpassed Manchester United in a goalless draw at the Camp Nou in last year’s semi-final and then lost 1-0 at Old Trafford.

Barcelona are more virile in attack than they were then but United have hardly slipped back in their development. Logically, the leaders of La Liga and the Premier League form the strongest pair of contenders in the eight chasing the European Cup.

read the full and original article here

Read more:
Poll result: Who do you want to face in the CL?
Barcelona Is Winning With Style
Henry becomes fourth European goalscorer


Marc4barca said...

i think the real team to avoid in CL is villareal lol.. we haven't seen the impossible in football this year yet and it happens all the time.

unreal2 said...

the last team we want in the quarters is MANCHESTER.... if barca and manu play in quarters all the excitement in CLwill be over....

Bogman said...

I think that Barca will beat Man U. We almost had them last year when we were playing bad and C Ronaldo was on fire, so now there should be a good oppertunity for revenge. The one team I would be scared of is Liverpool. Their tempo and team spirit is outstanding in european football this year plus the have Gerrard who dominates in attack. I seriously doubt if we can get past such an obstacle. It would take for all our cracks to make an outstanding effort in the two games. Maby in a final we would have a better chance of doing that.

Nithin said...

Hey unreal2, I believe, if Barca plays ManU in 1/4final, then, Barca will win on aggregate of 5-1, with Messi scoring a brace...but I am worried about Pool..they always manages to win big games..But I keep my full faith in this Barca team except Valdes lol...but i want Barca to face Arsenal or Chelsea...and go to 1/2final with that confidence...I am sure ManU will be waiting for us in the final..remember, the score i predicted is only if Barca face ManU in 1/4r..hoping for the best...Barca is the best, above the rest....

granche said...

Last years loss against Man.Utd had nothingk to do with Ronaldo factor he was invisible, it was the magician Sir Ferguson who kicked us out we were not able to score a single goal with possibly the best attack at that moment.

Marc4barca said...

lol half of that was true...ronaldo was invisible but ferguson was no magician he simply did what everyone else does with better players and to add to that we missed numeros chances in which we should have at least put away 1 or 2 and to add more to that zambrotta just like marquez the year before passed back ball in defense without looking straight to an oppsition player and they scored so basically manu got lucky and they got lucky against chelsea and inter so magician is an over statement. the true magician is mourinho leading porto to a champions league and maradona for winning scudetto with napoli. oh and back the we were no where near the best attack in the world henry was poor eto'o was even worst and messi just came back from injury. we had one of our worst seasons ever and we only made it that far cause we had celtic and then schalke.. so losing by only 1-0 was ana achievement.

R10FCB said...

the 0-0 draw at camp nou was absolute crap, man utd defended the whole game the only player for man u that was in the attacking half for them was ronaldo and he, like what everyone else has said, was invisible. and the game at old trafford was a bit more open but man u still defended heavily and on top of that with our attack line completely out of form man u can count themselves lucky they progressed to the finals.

Im hoping we get arsenal in the next stage, they're form isnt that convincing and beating arsenal in the quaters will give us great confidence to progress all the way to the final.

Anonymous said...

great article.
exactly what i was thinking , why should we fear the other teams when we are superior to all of them .
people say fear liverpool or united even porto but not barcelona .
well guess what , we're the ones that should be feared cuz we win with style and not with the help of refs (united - madrid) we're not inconsistent (liverpool - chelsea - arsenal - bayern)
we're good cuz we are barca.

had to vent a little bit , talk about being complaint , if i was a barcelona player pep would kill me .

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