UEFA Champions League: Haters Gonna Hate, FC Barcelona Gonna Progress

Victory! - Clive Brunskill

What else did we expect from a former Real Madrid coach, and other lessons to be learned from tonight's win

Pellegrini and Kompany lose their nerve

Don’t worry Manuel, you’ll get used to it soon enough. I suppose when you’ve lost on 19 separate occasions to the same team, it can get a little much; for Manuel Pellegrini, tonight’s 2-0 home defeat against FC Barcelona was the straw that broke the camel’s back as the usually mild-mannered coach launched into a tirade against referee Jonas Eriksson. Meanwhile, in the bowels of the stadium, Manchester City captain towed the company line, belittling Barcelona’s win with an astonishing attack on the very team that had just emerged comfortable 2-0 winners at the Etihad Arena.

Bemoaning the referee’s decision to award a penalty for Martin Demichelis’ reckless challenge on Lionel Messi, Pellegrini insinuated that there was some grand conspiracy edging momentum in favour of FC Barcelona, while Kompany bluntly claimed that this Barcelona team was nothing special and in no way superior on the night. Whether he settled on this opinion before or after the visiting right-back nutmegged City goalkeeper Joe Hart to make it 2-0 remains to be seen.

Of course, neither Pellegrini nor Kompany are completely off base with their remarks – Barcelona could have played better, and following a slow motion replay or two, it’s clear to see that Demichelis made contact with Lionel Messi outside of the area. But perhaps it’s more pertinent to ask why Kompany was playing Messi onside in the first place, or why Pellegrini opted to start Demichelis in the first place.

Once the dust has settled and tempers have cooled, Manchester City will look back on tonight’s match and realise that they weren’t beaten by UEFA, the referee or the Illuminati. They were beaten by themselves, by the brilliance of Barcelona head coach Gerardo Martino, and by an FC Barcelona side that knew exactly what was required of them to secure a favourable result in this UEFA Champions League tie.

The sooner they can come to terms with these facts, the sooner they stand a chance of actually competing at an elite level.

Can we finally shut up about the defense now?

Headed into tonight’s match, the mainstream media was focusing on Manchester City’s potent strikeforce; an offensive juggernaut that has statistically been the best in Europe this season. Meanwhile, there was the continuing narrative surrounding Barcelona’s defense, or more accurately the continued inference that Barça lack substance at the back. 90 minutes and a clean sheet later, is it time to end the criticism?

The supposedly declining Dani Alves dominated the right flank after a somewhat shaky start, justifying Manuel Pellegrini’s respectful team selection with a late goal to double Barcelona’s aggregate lead. Jordi Alba displayed tremendous discipline, especially given the acres of space ahead of him, to shut down both Jesus Navas and Pablo Zabaleta. Gerard Piqué was in imperious form, constantly shepherding Alvaro Negredo away from goal, frustrating the City offense with impeccable control and composure under pressure, while Javier Mascherano was a colossus – at one point the diminutive Argentine stopped Yaya Toure in his tracks, robbing the Ivorian of possession with a tackle that was timed to perfection.

And this was no fluke performance either. Barcelona shut out Atletico Madrid on two separate occasions this season and very nearly did the same against Real Madrid. In fact, this kind of dominant performance has become so commonplace in the biggest matches that I’m beginning to think they aren’t half bad after all...

In fact, can’t some people just shut up altogether?

FC Barcelona are leading La Liga with 60 points from 24 matches. They have booked their place in the final of the 2014 Copa del Rey – after already lifting the only trophy available to them thus far this season – and the Blaugrana are now all but through to the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League for the umpteenth year in succession. In Lionel Messi they possess the greatest player in living memory; certainly things don’t look too negative from where I’m sitting, so why can’t some Culés just focus on the positives?

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