To be honest, and this is no disrespect to the Arsenal side that will be facing Barcelona tonight, it should not really matter too much if our manager Luis Enrique gets his tactics wrong in north London tonight. It would probably only be a footnote in the annals of football history if Arsene Wenger and his players cdan spring a big surprise and win the first leg of the double-headed Champions League clash.
Barcelona have set the bar so high in recent seasons that any kind of wobble, regardless of how minor it may be, is going to be scrutinised in minute detail.
They are no ordinary side, they operate in a bubble those who have never experienced life inside can probably never fully understand.
They are, as they quite rightly like to point out, ‘mes que un club’.
It is for that reason that, despite sitting joint-top of their domestic division – with La Liga betting experts still fancying them to secure back-to-back crowns – and progressing positively in Europe, questions have been raised in recent weeks as to the productivity of their performances.
Luis Enrique and the Barcelona players will be under no illusion that they are through to the semi-finals of the Champions League just yet. But having today´s second leg at the Nou Camp and a 3-1 lead over PSG from the first leg at the Stade de France makes us clear favourites.
PSG need to score at least three times tonight but they do have a couple of key players back in the form of the former Barca striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and midfield maestro Marco Verratti. And we saw from the previous round against Chelsea that the French champions are capable of causing an upset, so we don´t really need the Real Madrid assistant Zinedine Zidane to tell us that PSG could possibly go through, as reported by ESPN.
Of course it will be a concern to Luis Enrique, his players and everyone concerned with FC Barcelona that the team suffered their first defeat of the season last night. And the French champions PSG will be hard to dislodge from the top of the Champions League group after their 3-2 win at the Parc des Princes, but it is by no means a disaster.
Recent media reports suggesting that the Barcelona and Argentina international Lionel Messi had lost his way and was not the same player that set that amazing scoring record a couple of years ago, seem to have been a bit premature, if not downright disrespectful and short sighted.
Messi proved his critics wrong once again on Saturday, bagging another brace to help Barcelona regain their place at the top of Spain’s La Liga table. He also provided two assists as Barca ran riot and beat Granada by 6-0 in front of the delighted Nou Camp crowd. Not only did little Leo make it five goals from six league games so far this season, but his first of the two goal made the remarkable record of 400 goals for club and country. And that does not even count the goals he scored for the Barca B team when he was a teenager breaking through.
With their two main La Liga rivals having a slow start, Barcelona were able to open up an early gap at the top of the Spanish league table. But it is very early days and nobody was getting too excited, because the performances were still a bit patchy and it was clear that the new manager Luis Enrique had plenty of work to do.
That was highlighted by the midweek game at Malaga. The Andalucians deserve a lot of credit for their draw, as they were very organised and worked tirelessly to close the Barca players down. And they forged the better chances, but the old Barcelona would have dominated the game more and created much more.
Spain will enter the 2014 World Cup on the cusp of unprecedented history that would symbolise their dominance at international level through a golden generation of players who have finally delivered the glory that so many squads in the past had the potential to achieve. No other nation in the history of football has won four consecutive major international tournaments, with Spain also in line to hold the distinction of being the only team to have successfully defended both European and World Cup titles in the eight year period.
I have been reading reports that FC Barcelona are not planning any big celebrations for this season, even though they have their destiny in their own hands and just need to win today to retain the title of champions of Spain. But this is ridiculous.
In fact, the Catalans should possibly view this trophy as the best, because it was the hardest to come by. With all the problems and twists in this landmark season, for Barcelona to finish it as champions, ahead of the two Champions League finalists from Madrid, would be pretty amazing.