Chelsea v. Barcelona: All This Useless Beauty

Amidst the hype about tomorrow night’s game, I think I’ve come up with a perfect tactical master plan to foil Pep Guardiola and his oh-so-magnificent charges.

It’s more cunning than Guus’s masterful shut-out in the Nou Camp and requires a tiny percentage of the effort for all concerned.

Install a fucking great big mirror in the away dressing room at Stamford Bridge.

They’ll be so busy regarding their own beauty and splendour, I doubt they will make it out onto the pitch much before Thursday lunchtime.

I mean, much to admire, poetry in motion blah de blah, but has there ever been a more narcissistic football club?

Endless reams of quotes from everyone bar the office cat at the Nou Camp about our terrible spoiling football, fouling and general bastardising of the beautiful game in the living room of its finest proponents.

How dare we adapt our game as the circumstances required when standing back to admire the show was clearly the sporting thing to do?

I was half expecting to open a paper this morning and see Xavi tell us that they’re ‘going to make us grovel’, Tony Greig style, so terribly inferior we are in the presence of football’s very own master race.

You want quotes? I’ll give you one then.

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye.”

Miss Piggy said that. The delicate blend of beauty and occasional violence seems appropriate in this instance.

The incessant carping from Catalonia during the past week says much about a team who appear increasingly uncomfortable with the weight of expectation upon their shoulders.

I suppose that when you’ve fallen to English teams in Europe’s premier club competition for the last two seasons, failing to score at home for the first time in a year against another one (and such a terrible bunch of aggressive oafs, too) must play on the collective mind a little.

Even Manuel Almunia, obviously over his FA Cup semi-final nightmares, has joined in the chorus of Chelsea-bashing, attacking our ‘boring’ football and ‘ghost’ fans (nearly as invisible as many of his own this evening, then).

He’s not from Barcelona, though, he’s from Pamplona. Famous for its bulls, apparently. I feel there is little need to develop that particular point any further.

Of course, this is all just a bit of history repeating itself.

A dig into football’s back pages reveals an interesting tale or two on the subject of FC Barcelona and their occasionally inflated sense of self worth.

In this month’s FourFourTwo magazine, former Bridge hero and serial trophy winner Marcel Desailly makes a rather telling comment about an encounter he had with FC Barcelona a few years ago.

“We really had it in for Cruyff, though, and for the media because they ridiculed us in the build-up to the final, saying we had no chance and explaining how Barcelona would mystify us. But we knew our strengths, even if they were built around our defensive organisation…”

For those who don’t know, Marcel is referring to AC Milan’s 4-0 demolition of Johann Cruyff’s sainted Barcelona side in the 1994 Champions League final – arguably the finest team performance of the modern era. Guardiola himself was on that losing side that night.

Some people never learn.

We’re all for the beautiful game, played the right way – broadens the mind, lifts the soul and all that – but the bitching from Barcelona and their many acolytes during recent days has been uglier than the average Joey Barton tackle.

This is a football match, not a moral crusade, no matter how much you try and make it one. There is a big difference between the two; mistake the former for the latter and you’re in danger of letting your obsession for perfection – the need to teach the opposition a lesson, even – overcome your will to win.

We have nothing to lose tomorrow night, and everything to gain. Not so long ago, even Champions League qualification for the Blues was looking like a tall order, so a ninety minute winner takes all, toe-to-toe duel with football’s finest for a trip to Rome is the proverbial bonus ball in football’s ever-surprising lottery.

A win for the Catalans would mean so much to so many; all would be right with the world, the natural order restored and justice done. It’s not just their moral crusade now – most of the footballing world seems to have taken it on. So only one question remains:

Have Barcelona really got what it takes?