Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Tough opposition ahead for Barcelona

Barcelona suffered a 2-0 shock defeat on Saturday at home to Hercules, with Paraguayan striker Nelson Valdez scoring both goals. This result was definitely a huge upset, and it tells us a few interesting things. First, it was fairly obvious to see that Barcelona were really out of sorts. While they did have the majority of possession they also looked slow, lethargic and uninspired. Most have put this down to last week’s midweek friendly between Spain and Argentina in Buenos Aires. Barcelona had 9 players involved in some way in the friendly match, which involved lots of travelling. It is therefore understandable that Barca’s play seemed unusually flat.

It is also fairly apparent that every team which comes to the Camp Nou this season is pretty much guaranteed to be coming with defending and counter-attacking on their mind. After Inter showed the way last season, Barcelona could find themselves trying to break down hard working and well organised teams week after week. This is unlikely to worry Pep Guardiola at this early stage of the season, but towards the later stages of the Champions League, Barcelona could find Europe’s best coming to do no more than to defend.

In one sense this is a shame for the spectacle of European knockout football, but many big teams have tried to take Barcelona on directly, such as Arsenal in last season’s quarter final, and almost all have failed. Jose Mourinho’s blueprint of dedicated defending and devastating counter attacks may well be taken up by far more teams this season. However, Barcelona will rightfully be favourites to win the Champions League again, and the addition of David Villa should help them in the knockout stages. Regardless of how the opposition sets up, Barca will continue to try and play the beautiful game in the way that they believe it should be played, and expect beauty to defeat the beast more often than not at the Camp Nou this season.

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