FC Barcelona dominated the game against Manchester City from start to end to win 2-0 to show that Jose Mourinho’s and other critics’ jibe earlier was nothing but over exaggeration.
The Catalans showed in their 2-0 victory that reports of their death as a Champions League contender have been greatly embroidered.
“Of course by history Barcelona is the favourite, but this Barcelona, this season, is showing that it is not the same as in previous years,” the self proclaimed Special One Jose Mourinho said while previewing the round of 16 fixture.
“Of course, they have Messi – he is special – and they have more than him. But I think this is the worst Barcelona of many, many years.”
Not just arrogant Mourinho, but many experts raised doubts about the quality of current Barca team but their victory against Rayo Vallecano was a proof of what Catalans can do. And yesterday, Gerardo Martino’s men proved once again that Barca still have what it takes to conquer the Europe again – beware Bayern and Real.
After an unproductive but dominating first half, Barcelona assumed full control when Demichelis was red carded after he sent Messi crashing to the ground on 54 minutes. Messi only had Joe Hart to beat as he sped in on goal. Replays suggested Eriksson had every right to give a penalty as even though Demichelis’s first contact in fouling Messi began outside the box, the contact continued with the momentum that took both into the area, and sending Barcelona’s No 10 to the floor. Pellegrini should have been more livid with himself for starting Demichelis. Red card was perfectly justified.
With a precious away goal in their pocket and a man advantage, Barcelona were in full control and nearly took a two goal lead when Alves found Xavi in the area but the Terrassa native’s shot sailed high in the 66th minute. Alves struck for the Catalonians’ second in the 90th minute of play. The Brazilian right back played a one-two-combination with substitute Neymar on the right and Alves swept in a shot in between the legs of Hart that turned City’s chances of a second leg comeback at the Camp Nou from slim to nearly impossible.
Amidst all the talks surrounding quality of this side, the truth is that little has changed with Barca. They remain a side that few know how to beat. They still dominate possession with significant ease, their quality on the ball remains a sight to behold, and as a result if you attack them, they make the most of the space, but if you sit back they will simply pass it around you and wait for their opportunity.
After the game, Cesc Fabregas rightly replied to their critics including Mourinho. He said: “We are top of the league, we had a great result tonight and we are in the final of the Copa del Rey,”.
“Everyone was saying Barcelona are not the same Barcelona, some people have been talking a bit too much and as usual they will now have to shut up for a few days.”
Yesterday’s victory was their first on the road in a Champions League knockout match since February 2012, suggesting they are getting better, if anything. And if anybody is suggesting that this is Barca at their worst, then Barca players are more than capable of silencing them – through more spectacular displays like yesterday.