It was supposed to be the Barcelona side that was the worst for many years, if you believe Jose Mourinho that is – who seems to have a lot to say on pretty much anything to do with football at the moment.
Then again, if they are the worst, it is because they are not as good as the side that flourished so well under Pep Guardiola which was feared across Europe and littered with the some of the most technically gifted footballers in the world – making it hard for the opposition to get the ball off them.
This Barcelona side is following one from one that was twice crowned Champions of Europe and has dominated in La Liga, including comfortably winning the title for the fourth time in five years ahead of Mourinho’s Real Madrid side in the season they were comprehensively despatched by Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-final.
This Barcelona side didn’t look so much different from the one that everyone has feared. The players may be a little different and older but the philosophy stays the same. They had 68% possession against Manchester City as the ball at times still looked as if it was on the end of a string with every touch.
You may question Manchester City and Manuel Pellegrini’s approach to the game, but Barcelona just went about their business and continued to probe, although there seemed to be a bit more intent about the home side at the start of the second half which they continued even after the sending off of Martin Demichelis. They looked comfortable on the ball, and even at times when City pressed high up the field and put them under pressure, they coped.
It is also worth remembering that Barcelona’s defence has often been talked about as a weak point in recent years. Yet they went to the home of a side that has been scoring goals for fun this season and kept a clean sheet, and the visitors just kept playing their game.
There is also the small matter that Barca’s talisman Lionel Messi has been missing through injury towards the back end of 2013, yet they have managed to keep pace with those at the top of La Liga and are in the Copa del Rey final.
Worst Barcelona team for a few years? That might be right, but I still wouldn’t want to play them!
image: © jeroen_bennink