Barça, Bayern, and Time

“FC Barcelona”, someone tweeted on my timeline. I realized the Champions League draw had started and Barcelona’s name came up first. I started refreshing my timeline like a maniac.  The next tweet I saw read “Bayern Munich”.

For the next few seconds, I received notifications from almost every possible application and source of information available on my phone. The world was simply buzzing with the news.  To many, the biggest match of the year was finally here. As for myself, I just thought: “It’s time”.

How people deal with time differs. Some are deeply attached to the past, while others choose to let go of it, live for the moment and aim for a better future.

Speaking of time, let us go a few years back.

In 2008, FC Barcelona announced that their former player, Pep Guardiola, has been appointed the new coach of the first team.

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We all know the details to that story. However, to sum it up, let us just say that the club witnessed its best period (from 2009 until 2013) in history with Pep and Tito in charge.

Pep left the club after a league failure and a Champions League heartbreak against Chelsea in 2012. Pep’s era came to an end.

Tito took charge of the first team the following season while Pep was taking a year off in New York. While Tito was helping the team accomplish a very successful league campaign, Bayern Munich announced that Pep Guardiola will be their coach in the 2013/2014 season.

Pep Guardiola watched as his former team faced his future team in April of 2013. Sadly for Barcelona, however, the tie turned out to be nightmare. The first match in Germany ended with a pure show of dominance from the German side. With Lionel Messi injured, Tito Vilanova battling cancer and a visible lack of structure in the club, the tie was over with yet another Bayern show of dominance but this time in Camp Nou in front of our home fans.

Barcelona v bayern 0-3

I heard the phrase “end of an era” a lot in that period. It came from a Robben quote after the two matches (4-0 and 3-0): “Barcelona have dominated Europe for the past five years. We can be very proud.”

Gerard Pique didn’t disagree either as he said: “When another side is so much better than you, there isn’t any option except to congratulate them”

Barcelona fans suddenly started waving their white flags and on those flags, written in bold letters, it said: “End of an era”.

After that period came a long period of sorrow and sadness. While Pep Guardiola was breaking Bundesliga records, Tata Martino had to deal with a relatively broken Barcelona. Barcelona fans truly realized, at that point, that their team is no longer the best in the world.

However, they found some happiness in cheering for their former savior and hero Pep Guardiola as he led Bayern through a fairly successful season. The peak of the support for Pep Guardiola came when Bayern Munich faced Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-final in 2014. Barcelona fans witnessed a failure for their former coach and hero when Real Madrid stunned Bayern with a 4-0 win in Germany. Adding insult to injury, Barcelona’s biggest rival enjoyed their best year in ages in 2014 by winning the Champions League trophy.

The world came crashing down for Barcelona fans. From ruling the world and dominating their main rival continuously to witnessing this rival win a Champions League trophy as Barcelona came out empty-handed, the club, players, and supporters declared absolute failure.

In the summer of 2014, FC Barcelona announced that their former player, Luis Enrique, has been appointed the new coach of the first team.

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Several players started coming in as Luis Enrique assembled his team. It was the start of something new.

With one defeat against PSG and one against Real Madrid, Luis Enrique was not exactly every fan’s favorite.

When 2015 started, however, things drastically changed. The team suddenly had its most successful winning streak in ages, started playing great football, and defeated literally all major rivals. The fans started to regain hope.


 

“It’s time”, I thought. It’s time to put our past and present in one ring and let them fight it out. It’s time to see if our ‘new’ style of play will defeat the style of play that put us on top of the world years earlier. It’s time for the present to prove its existence and send the past away forever.

Past events and failures aside, Pep’s team portrayed a certain style of play. It involved the evolution of players like Sergio Busquets. It depended on players like Xavi Hernandez to dictate play. While in Luis Enrique’s team, Xavi is a substitute. Lucho’s team tends to have a much more direct approach than Pep’s.

This, however, did not convince some of the fans.

“Wait! Pep didn’t do it that way”, one yelled.

“Yeah, well, Pep has been gone for years”, the other replied.

“It doesn’t matter, it’s our identity”

“This is how we are right now. This is how we were at least once before Pep. Are you saying that Pep’s football is our only identity?”

“The midfield doesn’t control matches anymore. They just push the ball to the attack”

And the discussion lasts for hours but one thing remains: the present.

The present involves a team led by Luis Enrique. It’s a team that depends on attacking brilliance for success. In this team, players can score and defend set-pieces. In this team, the ball is not circulated around midfield continuously. On the contrary, the players never hesitate to choose the riskier pass instead of the safer one. In this team, you witness the peak of attacking football with goals scored from all types of situations.

A lot of phrases could be used to describe Lucho’s team but my favorite has to be: It’s not Pep’s team.
It’s not the past. It shouldn’t be. It’s something different. It’s something new.

Lucho’s team can end this season with three trophies, no trophies, or somewhere in between. However, this team proved that a footballing success is possible even without the dictations of the past. After all, sticking to the past and its rules shows a lack of ambition and imagination regardless of how successful this past was simply because it shows that you’re afraid to open your eyes and see what the present has to offer.

Who knows? Maybe the present will provide something worth remembering in the future as well.

So, here we stand in May of 2015 ready to take on our former coach and style (with completely different players). We’re ready to face the club that forced us to pull out our white flags and surrender after 7 painful goals. In other words, we’re ready to face our hero and our nemesis. We’re ready to face our past.

As soon as Barcelona qualified against PSG one thought truly came to mind: the need for closure. This club, team, and fanbase need closure. We need to witness Lucho’s team lifting a league trophy, a Champions League trophy or maybe even both. There is something much more symbolic than a trophy in this situation and it is the true signaling of closure. The past is truly over and the present is beautiful and exciting.

There is no sweeter way to get closure than by defeating your past.

The world was simply buzzing with the news.  To many, the biggest match of the year was finally here. As for myself, I just thought: “It’s time”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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112 Comments

  1. Barcathegreatestever
    May 5, 2015

    Their number one priority has to be to keep it close, not let the tie get away from them. I think for this reason they will want to stay really compact in the middle and more so on Messi’s side. Heavy pressure in the middle and have to trust in the back line for crosses and long balls. Neymar’s day to shine, he’ll have the most space, I’m looking for him and Iniesta to make the headlines unless Messi gets a chance to go by Alonso and Boateng. Barca have been susceptible to long balls after losing possession especially in the middle so could see that as a strategy. All in all I don see them as any stronger than Man City or PSG without Robben and Ribery. Can they keep it close? Up to Neuer

  2. Inamess
    May 6, 2015

    Fantastic posts all around! So much has been written about this game that it’s hard to highlight much that’s new. Nevertheless, here are a few thoughts:

    1) This is a huge game for both coaches and I don’t think either will gamble that much in this match. Therefore, as much as I don’t like it, I do predict a low scoring game. I think Pep is still shell shocked about what happened with RM last year and he we do all he can to try to keep the tie alive so he has a chance to win at Bayern next week. For Lucho and our side the task is simple: we must win this game. We have 90 minutes to get the best result we can and why shouldn’t we take advantage of that while we are at home and this Bayern team is at its most vulnerable point of the season. Such an opportunity will not present itself again.

    2) It is important to remember that when Pep took the Bayern job they were not yet the juggernaut that they would become when they won the treble. Instead he was hired as someone who could beat the other elite sides in Europe to finally win it all at restore Bayern’s supremacy. The problem for him is that all this was achieved by Pinkus so unless he can take his team to the finals this year his tenure at Bayern will be considered a failure and a step backwards.

    3) If Bayern want to try to shut down Messi then I suppose they can be somewhat successful if they design their entire defense to do it. Therefore, I would say that the wild card in this game is Neymar and by extension Iniesta and the left side of the attack. I don’t know if Ney is yet respected by Pep and this Bayern team but if he has a successful game it could truly be a signature match for the Brazilian. Neymar never got a chance to take on Germany and now is that chance for a little redemption for his Brazilian squad and nation. Also, things would come full circle for the club since Neymar was acquired in the aftermath of our own drubbing to this Bayern team.

    4) Mascherano: Yes, this is a huge game for our destroyer for several reasons. The standout defensive player at the World Cup gets another rematch against a German side and let’s also recall that he was not available at the Allianz in 2013. If Bayern is able to get the ball in the air on crosses, corners and dead balls then obviously his lack of height will be a liability but otherwise he can really be decisive in shutting down much of Bayern’s attacks before they are able to get into dangerous positions to score. Bayern may have a few set plays that will try to attack Masch, but I think he will be up for the challenge.

    5) Thaigo: This tie will settle once and for all the whole Thiago drama that we have been living with these last two years. Yes, he could very well have a good game but lets not forget that he is still inexperienced in big matches and has yet to prove that he is the world class player that some expect him to someday be. I would say that he is just as likely to make a crucial mistake as do something brilliant, but we will have to wait to see.

    • Inamess
      May 6, 2015

      *Yikes: Heynckes not Pinkus

    • Chiu
      May 6, 2015

      agree inamess! Messi, Masch and Ney could get their ” mini revenge” againts this Bayern after the world cup defeat from Germany (Final and semis). Hope it would extra motivate them tonight. Visca Barca

    • georgjorge
      May 6, 2015

      If club football worked along these lines, Dante would have a serious personality problem every time he entered the pitch…

  3. Tata2
    May 6, 2015

    It’s very unfair that many neutrals are predicting the outcome of today’s match based on what happened 2years ago. They don’t want to understand that our coach was battling cancer, our best player was not fit. The whole team was psychological broken and many things were happening off field strong enough to distract the team. Everyone is already predicting Bayern as winners today either cos of the past 7-0 mauling or cos they think bayern has the better coach. I don’t want to get all confident but I can’t wait to see their faces when beat Bayern though I know when that happens excuses of Bayern’s best players being injured will begin to pop up. Nevertheless, I expect a tough match but to discount my team on such grounds is what I will not take. Annoyingly also is that most of the people talking don’t get to watch our matches save the big ones. We have played the tougher teams this term and you know what? save the away legs of the madrid and PSG games, we have beaten every big team more so, home and away. This barca is no longer very much Messi dependencia as we don’t need Messi to score for us to win big games. Yup! apart from the PSG away loss, Messi hasn’t scored in our big games, that doesn’t mean he flops in big games, it only means he adopts the another aspect of his game which is that of playmaking to help the team in such instances. Sorry for those who think the best way to stop Barca is by stopping Messi from scoring. I you asked me, am not even including Messi in my list of scorers tonight, its Neymar and Suarez then any other player whose name isn’t Messi as I expect Messi to solely concentrate on playmaking especially in midfield werebwe are lacking creative mids (Sorry Rakitic).

  4. Tata2
    May 6, 2015

    Please autocorrect my typos in your mind voice while reading

  5. IamXavi6
    May 6, 2015

    I am extremely bullish for tomorrow.

    I suspect we will win 4-1. What happened last time…completely throw out the window, counts for nothing given the circumstances.

  6. Chiu
    May 6, 2015

    We learn from our 7-0 loss and Bayern also learn from last season defeat to RM. I think it would be tight scoreline with both team play a bit “safe & conservative” to avoid unexpected beating/ disaster. Tight scoreline like 1-0 or 2-1 in Barca favour, I predict.

    Though my naive dream wish that we would beat them with more than 2 goals margin to seal our ticket to Berlin 🙂 Visca Barca!

    • georgjorge
      May 6, 2015

      I also predict something like 2-1, maybe 3-1 in our favor. Bayern is still one of the best teams in Europe but even fans of other clubs suddenly are assuming that Barca will have a field day with them (after declaring Barca in the first half of the season as has-beens who are good for nothing but passing the ball around).

      If Camp Nou isn’t supporting the team every minute of the match tonight then I don’t know when the time to do so will be. Bayern really has to feel the might of Barca from the stands as well as on the pitch today.

    • May 6, 2015

      This is something that I find difficult to understand too. Do opposition teams ever feel intimidated (may be wrong word, sorry) by the Camp Nou crowd, like we (at least fans) feel when we play away at the Calderon or Osasuna? Most of the time, you feel the presence of the crowd only when they applaud when we retain possession 🙂

    • IamXavi6
      May 6, 2015

      Interesting observation. A fair point too. Our crowd are very much a bunch of ‘voyeurs’ in that the typical barca fan in the stands normally wants to sit and study the game, more so than a fan from another country that has alot of satire chants and singing etc. We have our hymn and the Boixos Nois, but that’s about it.

      Although I suspect the stadium simply has opposition in awe due to capacity, it pains me to say that I believe we are very much a quiet bunch compared to the others. Also note alof of people in the stands are often just traveling fans – i.e not always full of your local supporters – I know for a fact a lot of UK peeps go over to ‘catch’ a game rather frequently.

      You don’t compare camp Nou to say, the Calderon.

    • May 6, 2015

      I don’t think our crowd intimidates opposition players, but they make enough noise to influence a weak referee. Possible exception was when Laudrup first came back to the Camp Nou:

      Quoted from the Independent http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/fa-league-cups/michael-laudrup-recalls-nou-camp-cauldron-ahead-of-brendan-rodgers-facing-swansea-8254702.html

      “You could say the fans weren’t that happy to see me – there were 100,000 whistling at me every time I touched the ball.

      “The noise was incredible. It wasn’t very pleasant.”

      Exceptions aside, I don’t think players are easily intimidated by hostile crowds. The definite advantages of playing home is:

      1. We don’t have to travel / change routine
      2. The pitch is in perfect condition.
      3. Our pitch is a bit bigger than most pitches.

  7. Gogah
    May 6, 2015

    Life is crazy sometimes.
    And the power of attraction that the mind and thoughts have is not to be underestimated.

    I started watching football and Barca 10 years back.
    Then when i started to really care, I remember clicking links fervently on the internet to get any dose of barca, to feel connected with the club that i love, from so far away in a country where football is not all that big and most fans are EPL fans.

    Today I am living in barcelona.
    And I happen to be holding two soci season tickets that a girl from a random party gave me. And i am actually going to go for the Bayern semi final game at the camp nou.

    Life’s pretty crazy sometimes.
    And you can will your dreams into reality.

    • 42
      May 6, 2015

      And I’m royally jealous.

    • georgjorge
      May 6, 2015

      “And I happen to be holding two soci season tickets that a girl from a random party gave me.”

      You did marry her, didn’t you?

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