Saturday, 25 April 2009

Barcelona is a nine-headed monster

author: Cyrus C. Malek
source: Goal

date: 15 April 2009

Unsurprisingly, after a 4-0 thrashing of Bayern Munich in the first leg, Barcelona sealed their passage to the Champions League semi-finals with a businesslike draw in the second leg.

Once again successfully navigating the quarter-final stage, Barca have equalled their run in last year's competition, this time to face Chelsea in the semis instead of Manchester United. Unlike last year though, when the Blaugrana drew 0-0 in the first leg before falling to United 1-0 in the second, it is difficult to see any side standing in Barca's way of winning it all this year.

"Barcelona are the best team in Europe," declared Toure Yaya shortly after dispatching Bayern at the Camp Nou last week — a rare instance of self-indulgence from a Barca player this season. Usually press conferences involving Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola or Barca players this year have been treated with a fair measure of humility — always reminding us there was still much work to be done and that they have not yet achieved their objectives.

The fact is that the defensive midfielder is dead right. At this moment in time and for much of this season, Barcelona have been the best team in Europe. And they don't look to be relinquishing that status until they formally claim it with the Champions League trophy in Rome.

It is difficult to remember a team with the balanced weaponry of this year’s Barcelona squad. Even in the Ronaldinho years it was somewhat straightforward as to where the danger would be coming from. This year however, Pep Guardiola has created a monster akin to the dreaded beast in Greek mythology — the nine-headed Hydra. Barcelona can beat you from almost every position on the pitch, and every player in their starting line-up can be lethal.

The most pivotal signing came in the summer addition of Dani Alves who has revolutionised the role of the right back from the classic pick-the-time-to-come-forward defender to a marauding come-at-them-full-throttle attacker. The dimension Alves brings to his side is invaluable. Alves opens up an entire half of the field for Barça, allowing the right-sided winger to pinch in closer to goal and await the stinging cross that is sure to come from the Brazilian's boots.

Eto'o has been in the Barca squad for a number of years now and actually looked to be headed for the exit in the Ronaldinho, Deco, Rijkaard and others exodus that preceded this season. While the Cameroonian striker was best known for making noise in front of microphones, this season Samuel has enjoyed a renaissance and has been making noise in front of goal on his way to netting the title of La Liga's presumed Pichichi.

After considerable growing pains in his first season at Barcelona, Thierry Henry seems only slightly less dangerous than at his Arsenal best. Owning the left wing, Titi has made a habit out of taking defenders on — and more often than not, beating them. Fitting perfectly into Guardiola's attacking trident, the Frenchman has seen his career blossom once more.

Coming off their Euro 2008 win with the Spanish national team, Xavi, Iniesta, and Puyol bring their championship-winning experience to Barca in brilliant fashion. As he is for La Roja, Xavi is the architect of Barcelona’s offence — the engine that powers the attack - cruelly picking apart opposing defences as a child picks the legs off of an unfortunate insect.

In a style all his own, Iniesta darts through the midfield relying on his quick changes of direction to out-wit defenders. Puyol is the rock of the back. As the Blaugrana captain, he lays the foundation for his team and this season in particular, Carles' tackles are made with authority and split-second timing. When he spent a few weeks injured, Barca were an entirely different side in defence without him.

The rest of the back line and defending midfield — Abidal/Sylvinho, Marquez/Pique, and Toure/Keita complete the defence, but all are so equally comfortable on the ball that none are a liability. The truth is that the back line is so rarely called upon to play traditional defence because Barca's best defence is its offence.

Abidal/Sylvinho are cautious going forward, always conscious of their defensive responsibilities, Marquez serves as a second leader in the back while Pique has been playing years above his age, and Toure/Keita provide superb link-up play between the defence and attack.

Valdes is the only real liability in defence. His most notable errors include gifting the ball to Ivan de la Pena in Barca's defeat to Espanyol at the Camp Nou and being embarrassed by Juninho's free kick in Lyon. Nonetheless, he remains an adequate keeper and, to his credit, does pull off a spectacular save now and again.

Oh yes, Messi. They used to say a player the likes of Maradona would never be seen again, but now they say another the likes of Messi will never come to pass. He is undoubtedly the best player in the world and he is only getting better, becoming much better at discerning the times he should take on an entire defence on his own or use his team-mates to surgically cut through it. But unlike Ronaldinho who made Barca tick, Messi is more like icing on the cake.

Bojan, Busquets, Hleb, Gudjohnsen, and Caceres would be undisputed starters for other teams and with that, Barcelona’s feared Hydra becomes complete. With the way the Blaugrana squad has been performing, the Champions League seems more a probability than it does a possibility and if they do not win Europe’s coveted trophy this season, it will be some injustice. For as this Madrid-leaning columnist will be the first to admit, they are the best team in Europe.

read the full and original article here

Read more:
Barça's beauty lies in their bite
Barcelona the team to avoid in Champions League
Barcelona Is Winning With Style


sashi said...

gr8 article... but i hate the part where VV has been named the real liability of the team... aahhh come on... there's the best in the world in Buffon and Iker... they are a class of their own... all other GK come below them and i feel VV is right up trying to reach the levels of Iker...

who else do u think is better than VV right now? pls dont name Cech... i dont think there's anyone else... lets stick with VV... he's reliable..

Exarch said...

The GK from Inter in terms of form and abilities is probably the best GK in the World right now. Being a Barca fan, I hate when ppl criticise our team and players, however our starting GK is too eccentric and unreliable. I think a quality GK must be 100% reliable and not error prone and lack concentration.

jazzy said...

you should read what he said bout valdes, he is just being realistic that although he sometimes makes mistakes, he still acknowledge VV as a good GK:
"Nonetheless, he remains an adequate keeper and, to his credit, does pull off a spectacular save now and again."

Anonymous said...

Valdez is definitely not in the level as Iker, Julio Cesar and Buffon but he can compete with Cech, Pepe Reina and Diego Lopez.

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