Wednesday night was a disappointment. Barcelona entered the first real final of the year, and ended up losing 1-0 to Real Madrid. The game itself was more like El Clasico, rather than El Frustratico, but to me it felt like a repeat of the latter. The towering header by Ronaldo was perfectly executed, much like Jose Mourinho's tactics, and for the first time in a long while, Pep Guardiola seemed to be clueless.
Perhaps this is a harsh way to put it, but he was beaten tactically, and some decisions he made at the start of the season are coming back to haunt him. Nevertheless, he has to regroup, and consolidate.
To do this, Barcelona need to see off their next challenge, with minimum hassle, and this challenge comes from Pamplona. Osasuna travel to the Camp Nou as the team with the worst form away from home, so a trip to the Camp Nou is possibly their worst nightmare. Throw in a wonded Barcelona team, that will be baying for blood after Wednesday, and we have a game on our hands.
So, to get you prepared for the game, here's the views of the Barca Blaugranes team. (Adi-Oula Sebastian, Bostjan Cernensek, Paul Udani, Shehryar Khan, Gabriel Roberts and I)
Obviously the Blaugrana cannot win the treble, but will they end up with the double, or with only one trophy?
Adi-Oula Sebastian: I’ll be cautiously optimistic, I would say the double is still very much in the cards but it depends on whether Pep Guardiola is willing to make drastic changes, for instance dropping David Villa.
Bostjan Cernensek: It will be extremely difficult to beat Real Madrid in the Champions League. Mourinho's anti-football tactics work against Barcelona, but Barca have something to prove now. I'm still confident Barcelona will lift two trophies at the end of the season.
Arron Duckling: Wednesday proved how much Real have improved, but I think that with home advantage in the second leg, and Puyol back, Barcelona should get through to the final. And if they can beat Real, Manchester United won't be a concern.
Paul Udani: They pretty much have La Liga in the bag with Madrid seemingly conceding, so they can concentrate on the Champions League now. The loss in the Copa Del Rey only burns the fire within the players more to win the CL.
Shehryar Khan: After the Cup final its a little hard sinking it all in and I'd really like to see how Barcelona react to it in the next game. The league is all but in the bag but it would be hard to give an accurate prediction on the Champions League. Barcelona are now in a tricky position and we know that Real Madrid is not an easy side to go past. If we advance, playing a Manchester United side in London won't be easy either. I'm still hopeful we can do the double.
Gabriel Roberts: After the heartbreaking loss to Real on Wednesday, it's tough to be too confident going forward in Champions League. But I still think the little men can do it, especially with Puyol back in the lineup.
IfBarcelona "only" win the league title, will this be considered a failure?
PU: No. We won only the league last year and I don't consider it a failure. Winning silverware is hard, no matter what we expect of this team, so any year with silverware is a success.
AOS: Winning a title, any title is never a failure. Perhaps I will catch a lot of heat for what I’m about to say but that’s where FC Barcelona and Arsenal FC differ, every title is worth competing for in Catalunya. There’s no such thing as a second rate title. If it’s silver, shiny and can be put in a trophy cabinet, let’s go for it. Therefore, even if FC Barcelona only ends up with the La Liga title, the season can still be considered a success.
SK: As a fan I don't think it would be. Champions League Semi-finalists (just in case), Cup finalists and League winners. I don't think we can consider that a failure. Disappointment, of-course, but I don't think it would go down as a failure.
GR: Amazingly, yes. Considering how well Barcelona have played this season, a single title would be a huge dissappointment.
BC: I wouldn't consider it as a failure. The league has always been Barcelona's top priority, everything else I see as a bonus. Last year Barca also "only" won one trophy and I didn't consider it as a failure.
AD: If we lost to anyone other than Real, then maybe, but losing to the second best team in the world cannot be considered a failure. Disappointing? Yes. Failure? Never.
With yet another Clasico in the near future, should Guardiola a) Rest everyone or b) Try and get a big win and restore confidence?
AD: Rest everyone, even the B team should be enough to beat the worst travellers in the league. Even a loss would not matter, we cannot be tired when we kick-off at the Bernabeu.
BC: Pep will rest some players, it won't be everyone, but the players need rest. The extra 30 minutes on Wednesday certainly didn't help.
GR: He should rest some of the big guns, I think, but obviously a win is important. But I don't think you have to worry about players being out of sync or needing a confidence boost—Barcelona will be ready to go against Madrid no matter what.
SK: I think Pep has a lot of home work to do. I would like to see Afellay with some more playing time and with Adrinao out for 4-6 weeks, the defense needs some confidence!
I don't think you need to rest all players but I'd like to see a couple of players tried and tested before the league! A 2-0/3-0 win would be enough of a booster.
PU: I feel rest should be given to the key guys (Xavi, Iniesta, Messi). It almost seems like they have appeared in every game (don't know if this is a fact) and there's a lot of mileage on those legs so rest should be in order. This squad never really lacks confidence anyway, so restoring it is moot point.
AOS: No disrespect to Osasuna, but I feel Thiago can deputize for Xavi or Iniesta while David Villa definitely needs to be benched for Ibrahim Afellay. C’mon, for how many games will Pep Guardiola try his “at some point David Villa will score” experiment?!? Something, or better yet, someone has got to go and it has to be El Guaje.
David Villa is by no means a flop like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, it’s just his confidence has deserted him and this is the most important phase of the season. FC Barcelona has already lost one title and the Blaugrana are just two games away from the CL Final in Wembley.
In addition, hopefully Carles Puyol won’t be rushed back into action. The La Liga title is just a formality, there’s no reason to risk Puyol for a game that has little to no impact on the championship race.
After this article by Sebastian, assume you are Guardiola and you have chosen to bench David Villa. Good decision? And who would you replace him with?
GR: Great decision—it's about time! Villa has been in poor form lately, and it's time to give somebody else a shot. I'd give Afellay the nod.
SK: I would toil with the idea of Iniesta on the wing inter changing with Afellay in midfield. And I would give him a rest, just to get him back focusing. I still think Villa has an important role in the Clasicos.
AOS: I guess it’s kind of obsolete that I answer this question ;)
AD: I say play him versus Osasuna, as if he can't score against them, at the Camp Nou, he never will. If I had to choose a replacement, it would be Jeffren.
BC: Villa is in a tricky place right now, but I wouldn't bench him. Watching from the sidelines won't help him, it might be better for Barcelona if he's on the bench, but in the long run Villa is Barca's best option, at least until Bojan gets back.
PU: I know Villa is struggling, but we cannot bench him, if only because we lack a true striker up front. Bojan would've been a perfect deputy, but he's injured so Barca will have to hope he snaps out of it.
That's all for Part 1. Click here for Part 2.
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