Chelsea v Barcelona: Standing on the Edge (Reprise)

It’s the night before Barcelona.

God, I detest the Champions League. It’s a vile, overblown, self-important and elitist clique that makes the Bullingdon Club look welcoming and all-inclusive. That awful, angelic opening anthem brings the bile racing to the back of my throat like Monday’s school dinner of Spam, cold beetroot and greying lumpy mashed spud used to some thirty (OK, thirty plus plus) years ago.

Take tomorrow night’s showdown with Saint Lionel and his chums. Pep’s all singin’, all dancin’ football machine who play the right way, win with purity and righteousness and afterwards dry the tears of the little children who wept with joy as they tika-taka’d around the pitch like the saints of the game that they will surely be canonised as in due course.

I mean – I just can’t stand that we’re supposed to have any kind of rivalry with them. Barcelona? It’s seven hundred miles away, for heaven’s sake. Spurs. Now that’s a rivalry. Not Barcelona. If we’re lapsing into coarse sexual innuendo for a moment, our rivalry with Spurs is a full-on, rock solid boner that you could proudly hang a wet donkey jacket on. Barcelona? Well, it’s a languid, disinterested semi at best, artificially stoked up by the Viagra of the Champions League hype machine that everyone gets carried away with every time it bowls into town.

As such, when that sodding anthem rings out at Stamford Bridge, I will be at home, practising the minor pentatonic scale on my guitar, sipping tea and possibly catching up on series three of The Wire (what can I say – I’ve got a lot of boxed sets to work through). I’ll be doing anything but paying attention to proceedings in SW6.

And if you believe that, you’ll probably believe that Dani Alves won’t dramatically fall over clutching his face the moment anyone in a blue shirt farts in the same postcode he happens to be gracing his presence with at the time.

I should, in the interest of declaration and clarity, point out that I am a colossal hypocrite. I make the average politician look like a bastion of unshakeable moral principle. Some of the volte-faces I’ve performed would make Ken and/or Boris blush (delete as applicable to your political preference) at the sheer brass neck on me.

Yes, to demonstrate my ambivalence towards it all, I’ve handed over sixty-five notes to be in the West Lower on Wednesday night (another reason to detest the bloody competition – it shuts off my bloody seat in the Matthew Harding Upper). I will contain equal quantities of European lager and bad, simmering blood. I suspect that at certain points I will be so swivel-eyed and incensed, I’ll look like Marty Feldman having his plums squeezed. Should we be denied any obvious penalties, I fear that the authorities may move to section me for my own good.

I hate them. And even worse, I hate it that I hate them. I’ve bought into all the hype, the hysteria and the artificial grudge against a team we’ve played just ten times in the last decade or so. It’s ridiculous. But to paraphrase a red-nosed Glaswegian and a slightly unhinged Geordie(ish), I’d love it, LOVE it, if we knocked them off their perch.

To travel back to the weekend, for a moment (so I can ham-fistedly try to link everything together) and the game against Spurs – proper rivals – which was bloody good. Twatting them all over North London on prime-time terrestrial TV stuck a silly perma-grin on the collective CFC face that still hasn’t shifted. If the season had finished on Monday, we’d have crossed the line (crossed the line – geddit?) in style and given what a debacle it was all looking a few weeks back, I’d have taken a finale like that without a second thought.

On Sunday evening after a beer or several, somewhere in the back of my tiny, slightly inebriated mind, a little grain of hope sprung into life. We can beat them on Wednesday if we play like that, you know. We can get to Munich (it would be nice – I know this lovely little hotel with a great wine cellar, young ladies in dirndls…)

This is another riff on the old ‘it’s the hope that kills you’ line. We don’t really stand a chance. Do we? Like Frank said in the press conference today, every time you turn the TV on Messi seems to score twice.

(Maybe if no-one turns their TV on, he won’t score?)

I digress. Another game against a team I can’t stand in a competition I can’t stand. But the thought that some of the best players I’ve ever seen in blue shirts will have a gap on their otherwise glittering CV’s that they may never have another chance to fill is almost as unpalatable as the Champions League itself.

In truth, I just want to see us lift that lousy trophy that we’ve become obsessed with, so I don’t have to think about it any more. Exorcise the demons. Tick it off the list and move on. So I don’t have to think about the width of the post and Terry’s tears in the Muscovite rain. So I don’t have to think about Frisk, Ovrebo and penalties that never were. So I don’t have to listen to any more UEFA-related conspiracy theories. So I can go back to being happy with a proper semi against Spurs (so to speak).

And so I find myself, nine hundred words later with no satisfying pay-off. Because when it comes to Chelsea, Barcelona and the Champions League, the last words just haven’t been written yet.

There are 47 comments

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  1. Vik Sohonie

    This was the post in the entire blogosphere regarding the pre-match build up.  I had this niggling itch in the back of my mind why this match gets my blood so boiled.  Your exorcism theory is spot on.  Having said that, we are possibly the only team in Europe who actually know how to beat Barcelona convincingly.  They hate us for it.  And, as you said, there isn’t a group of players in Europe who deserve the Champion’s League more than our stalwarts.  There would nothing more Chelsea like than having that torrid spell under AVB, turning it around on post-sacking auto-pilot efficient mode and reaching Munich.  

  2. Jack Kim
    I just watched this before I read your piece, and thank goodness I did. The murderous, boiling rage I have for the “greatest team of all time” was something inexplicable and horrid. Being the charming, congenial gentleman that I am, I have already begun meditating to calm myself before embarking to my “friend’s” house, a Barca whore who’d lap Messi’s sausage right up, as he demands deification. FUCK ‘EM… FUCK ‘EM and their midget king. May Drogba smite them all. 

  3. mark_25

    Excellent stuff Jonathan.

    It’s a close call as to whether we’ll be playing Real or Bayern but we’ll take either.

    At Wembley Robbie got a song from the fans as we were pummelling Spurs 5-1.  I’d also like to give a mention to Eddie Newton.  Is he our new Butch Wilkins (with hair)?

  4. Cunningplan

    You’ve summed up the mood perfectly JD; but it’s also nice for us to be going into the game with no expectations. Afterall we’ve been written off by everyman and his dog, and we’ll no doubt have all the ITV pundits creaming their collective pants over Barcelona.
    And I should also imagine Spurs, Arsenal, Liverpool and most Utd fans (I say most, but I know some of my Utd supporting friends won’t be) will be hoping and looking forward to us getting thrashed.

    I’ll just view these two matches and liken it to one of my favourite films, Zulu.
    Let these next two games be our Rorke’s Drift!

  5. bluebayou

    Ah JD, a true tonic for the troops. I had to abandon the quieter waters of the East Upper for the MHL. I may not get as good a view but the experience will be a little more “intense” I expect.

  6. Blueboydave

    Well said, JD.

    It’s the Nuremberg Rally-like, orchestrated flag-waving rendition of Blue Is the Colour led by that bloke with  the posh singing voice that we seem to get just before all home CL games now that really turns me off.

    Still, half of London will probably have failed to re-tune their TVs properly, so ITV’s audience figures should be terrible 🙂

    • mark_25

      You know this blog is monitored so it’s best to tow the party line and wave your flag, sing and at other times be silent with a look of solemnity as instructed, otherwise you’ll have to take time out for re-education.

      Changing the TV tuning has resulted in me losing my CEEFAX

      • Blueboydave

        Pah, I cock a snook at their monitoring!

        The club claim their CCTV cameras are excellent. Let them try to find me – I’ll be the bloke near the front of the West Upper resolutely sitting reading his programme while that orchestrated flag-waving nonsense goes on.

        On the other hand, would I get transitional funding for that re-education stuff?

  7. Dannybrod51

    Exactly expresses my feelings towards this game. Ought to get a grip with the hate, but can’t shake the morality stuff. It’s just so infantile isn’t it? I mean them, with their ‘playing the right nway’ drivel. Why is tiki taka the right way? Where was that written? In the Ten Commandments? Or was it the Buddhist Dhammapada? And Guardiola’s messiah complex. Like that thing AVB had, with the mission to install a certain kind of football style not just because it was an effective way to win matches – oh no, nothing so mundane for these guys – but because it was the morally right way to play. Brendan Rogers shows worrying signs of it too. Which is bad enough, but when mixed with high doses of hypocrisy (with regard to the cheating and bad loser-ship, like turning the hoses on Inter two years ago to prevent them warming down in front of their still delirious fans), causes a serious bad taste to surface in the mouth. I don’t just want them beaten. I want them beaten with a display utterly utilitarian long-ball power football of the sort we used to be able to summon up when needed (which is not to say we don’t have skilful players with as much ball-playing ability as anyone and always have). But my expectations are not that high. Look, I think Barca are a brilliant team who have found a formula that works for them. But it’d do the world a favour if we showed everyone else how to deal with it effectively and put an end to the sickening sycophancy that surrounds them. There’s a whole thesis to be written about this subject – its origins and who it serves. But we’ll leave that for another time.

  8. Desmond Bey

    Here in Beirut, the one pub I go to (the owner is a Chelsea fan) that shows all the games has had to take reservations for tonight’s game – a grand total of 78 Barcelona “fans” and 3 Chelsea fans which includes me and him. I would prefer to stay home than listen to the simpering adulation of all those wankers who will vastly outnumber us but I am going on the off chance that 3 voices will have reason to howl with joy after the 90…petty, yes.

  9. eismcsquare

    This is why I read this blog. Awesome post JD!

    Going to Nevada Smith in the NYC for the second leg of 2006 was me against 150 Barcelona cocksuckers. They cheered for every dive, every handball, everything not football – and we are talking about moral high ground?

    Fuck them all.

  10. Blue_MikeL

    Fuckuty Fuck! We haven’t won the war, but certainly won the battle!!! 
    Keep The Blue Flag Flying High comrades!

  11. NorthernVA

    I have never seen the Catalans, and most of twitter, so pissed at the shenanigans of one player. Drogba you bleepin’ legend!

  12. Desmond

    Come on now, balanced heads everybody, that was only part one…but if I wasn’t still drinking I’d howl again. 

  13. Trueblue

    Just like RDM asked for … the perfect game. 

    Well done lads. We just beat the best team in the world. 

  14. Blue_MikeL

    Drinking and singing “Flying high in the sky !!!! Keep the Blue Flag Flying high from Stamford Bridge to Camp No… – Score we keep the blue flag flying high!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

  15. limetreebower

    Blimey O’reilly.

    Play brilliantly for 70 minutes without ball — check.

    Nick goal — check.

    Get lucky — check.

    We’ve done it often enough now that it can’t be coincidence. I still wouldn’t put money on going through, but the Barca lot must be seriously wondering whether we’re the one team that’s solved them.

  16. mark_25

    In the past I’ve found Drogba’s antics irritating but tonight I enjoyed every second he rolled around holding his face. Who said possession is everything?

  17. eismcsquare

    So, even if whatever I read is true, that Drogba spent a lot of time on the ground, the press and every cocksucker in the world go tits up. But when Barca and their ‘beautiful’ players do the same match in match out (Levente – just three days back, Messi tried to score with his hands again), it’s ‘beautiful’ football.

    Fuck the cocksuckers.If we can’t win by playing right (Ovrebo), we will win by doing a Busquets (acting), by doing an Alves (diving), by doing a Messi (handball), by doing a Xavi (complaining) – whatever the fuck it takes.I would love for them to lose it with their own medicine.Fuck Barca and fuck the ‘beautiful’ football.

  18. #win singh

    I thought Drogba was actually doing his best for public relations tonight and it’s something I’ve noticed happening more with him lately.  After any foul or free kick given, you will find him talking to the Barca player to … I guess the only word I can think of is to pacify them.  There was one great moment where Mascherano made the dive signal and Drogba shook his head and was then chatting to Masch about the incident.  Eventually Masch kind of shrugged.  The other great bit was Drog and Busquets chatting after Busquets got the yellow card… maybe comparing notes about diving?

    Terry’s grasp of Puyol’s hand (when he had a dislocated thumb) was something else though…

    Great win though and I think Ramires is again absolutely outstanding.  Our best defensive winger since Mario Stanic 🙂

  19. museum

    Hey, from a huge Barça fan, believe me, we absolutely can’t stand you either.  I hate Chelsea just as much as I hate Real Madrid.  BUT – it’s really fun to play each other, isn’t it? Really missed it the past couple years, to the point that I’d even cheer for you guys in Champions League.  Not the result I wanted in the first leg, but it’s definitely special watching Barça play at Stamford Bridge, and I can’t wait for the second leg.  Also, nice writing and Young Frankenstein image on here.  

  20. Musumba

     Watching Pep scratching his head in a Wengeresque fashion made me  laugh, its times like this he really wished the referee was to step in with an extra role,ideas run out and the subsequent introduction of  Thiago etal worked to increase our confidence.Beating the “Super-favou-rites” was indeed awesome ,I salute the players. with the exception of Juan Mata whom i seriously thought was playing for the Catalans ,Whats with the Spanish contingent?  Cesc did the same, He screwed Arsenal with a back pass, amassed a lot of wealth and funded his own transfer back to Catalunya ,lets hope Mata will not replicate the same come the return leg,an alternative is substituting him with Essien a direct player who can run comfortably with the ball at his feet and draw contact,  Barcelona had huge problems containing Drogba and Ramirez(these power running sort of players) adding Essien to play in Matas role would have made us draw a lot of fouls and yellow cards against Barcelona from possible contact,the reason being Barcelona has a very poor group of tacklers,lets  celebrate unlike Manure and Real we put on a decent display and Roman should give RDM  the full time job if he knocks out the Superfavourites

  21. Desmond

    I never thought Di Matteo had tactics in his bag but last night he proved me wrong – a very disciplined Chelsea followed them to the letter. An absolute pleasure to watch…

  22. Avadu

    I,m a 50 year old , it should not get to me like this, but it does. I was very proud of Chels last night.

  23. bluebayou

    For a team with so little history you’d think it wouldn’t be difficult for the commentariat to get a couple of things right.

    Ivanovic and the long throw. Seen numerous references to Stoke. Paul Doyle in the Guardian referred to Delapovic. This was Stamford Bridge. We remember Ian Hutchinson. When players use the long throw that’s our point of reference.

    Seen plenty of references (even from Chelsea fans) about how Mourhino-like, last night’s performance was.
    Gus Hiddink anyone? I’m in no way decrying the Special One, but last night looked a lot more like the previous display under our other interim manager/coach whatever his title was.

    • Blue_MikeL

      Yes, indeed it was Hiddink-esque display than  TSO-like. Now, if we can replicate our other Hiddink esque display at Camp Nou and keep them at bay with 0:0 we are through.

  24. Cunningplan

    I think Giles Smith on the official site summed up Barca last night with their tippy tappy feetball. I felt the same during the game, all those neat quick passes, and more triangles than a fucking Toblerone, just bored me to death. Bloody hell even Arsenal mix things up and go direct sometimes, but no not those demi-gods from the Catalan region.
    It’s as if they want to humilate their fellow pros with their circus tricks, I was half expcecting to see a sealion come on at some point to balance a ball on it’s nose.

    • petew

      I dunno, when they are really on their game – like in the final last year, where they trounced United – they are absolutely incredible to watch and you have to put aside any prejudice and just admire something completely extraordinary and different to any style of football that has gone before. It really is quite beautiful and brilliant. 

      But when they are being flummoxed, as they often are against us or Real (which is really when most of us watch them), they do look one-dimensional and a bit boring. That is a testament not only to us, but also to how Pep clearly changes their approach out of respect to us – they are more cagey, probing, more traditional/normal in some ways (I personally, for instance, don’t think 70% possession is all that impressive given the way we were set up).

      • Desmond

        Good point about them changing their approach. It goes to show that they know what we are capable of, even if we sometimes seem not to.

  25. Litmus_test

    What are these Barca lovers complaining about? We didn’t even need Torres to dismantle them… and also managed to rest world beater Malouda #Drogged

  26. bluebayou

    Britain’s love of Bloodsports.
    “Champions League Live averaged 7.1 million viewers, a 29.6% share of the audience, between 7.30pm and 10pm on ITV1 on Wednesday, with a five-minute peak of 8.9 million.”

    That was more than the Apprentice apparently.
    Aside from the couple of hundred Chelsea fans, and a few TV sets left on by the terminally forgetful one assumes the rest of the millions tuned in to see Chelsea getting a twatting?
    I wonder when the peak point was?

    • Blueboydave

      I’d take a wild guess that peak viewing was the first 5 minutes before confused soap fans remembered it was one of the nights Coronation Street is not on straight after Emmerdale 😉

      The Gods are obviously still angry that The Beautiful Game took a bit of a beating. In my bit of SW London we’ve had hailstones and thunder and lighting intermittently this afternoon. 

      I expect the plague of locusts and death of the first born are being held back to see if UEFA restore the natural order in the 2nd leg.

  27. Ososdeoro

    Nuremburg: my Barca friend said that the seating configuration of Stamford Bridge, where each seat is directly behind another, is conducive to North Korean style card stunts, and suggests that game day management take advantage of this feature.

    What a game. Ramires was brilliant. So was Cech and Drogs. Among Napoli #2, both Benfica games, Man City at home, The FA semi and this, the season is just about getting satisfying. “Just about” in the American way, meaning almost there, not just made it.

  28. Gleb

    I have to say that the refereeing was brilliant. The biggest surprise, in my opinion, not the scoreline. 

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