Standing on the precipice, aka “Winning is impossible, and yet … “

Today, on this extraordinary day, it’s worth considering the absurdity of what we are about to witness.

Because sport is absurd, a hope and a prayer, a crazy quilt of luck, dreams and things happening the exact right way. You can’t say it’s impossible because it happens every week. But it’s close.

At the beginning of a season, a group of athletes gather to place themselves in the hands of coaches. And it all begins without a clue, because athletics is also hope. There are theories and training notions. You have to take it as faith, the ultimate act of faith that if you do this, that will happen. And it’s excruciating because nothing presses on an athlete like the passage of time. Seconds become minutes become hours become days, weeks, a whole season, and it’s painful. So the trust in the people who are running things has to be absolute.

Pep Guardiola didn’t just win because he had the best players. He didn’t always. His teams won because he was able to get complete and total buy-in from a group of extraordinary players. That buy-in, that psychic submission, is a crucial part of sport. It’s what every coach craves. A former training partner of mine had a favorite saying: “You have to want it.” That means it’s the things that we as spectators never see, the other side of the happy, grinning athletes in the images that the team releases. Being an athlete is about hope, and pain.

A man who rides with me asked me one day, how I go fast. All I could say to him was what my friend says: “You have to want it.” He sees me going fast. He doesn’t see me vomiting into a trash bin, or weeping into a towel because the training hurts so much. Nobody sees that, but it’s easy to understand if you’ve been there. So when this group of men on the Barça first team place themselves in the hands of other men it has to be fully, or don’t bother. Time and history are waiting. They can’t ask why, they can’t hesitate. In the speculation about what might or might not have happened after that day at Anoeta, I often say that something happened that gave Enrique that buy in. Without that buy in there is no point because that hope, that absolute commitment becomes impossible.

Sport is also belief and lack of thought. If a player thinks about flying into a tackle, about putting his face down where a foot wearing a spiked shoe is, why would he? Why would anyone in their right mind?

Sport is automations, the rote behavior built in training that leads to mindless execution in a game where there is no time to think. Back when people wanted Enrique’s head on a platter and some called for patience, that something was happening, it was simply because sport can never be judged quickly. My pre-season as a racing cyclist starts in October, and runs until April I know the things that I have to do. I know that if I do them, fitness will come. At the end of that fitness is … something or other. That’s pre-season. Racing is still another two months away, a period where you round off the edges, make efforts to understand what you need to improve and then, finally, I race. I can no more say that my season is going to be crap based on the first races of the season than I can say I am going to be King of Siam. Because as a season progresses, a body responds in different ways. Sometimes it breaks down, other times it gets stronger.

So when people were declaring Barça’s season lost it was panic rather than logic because a season happens over the long term, at the terminus of months and months of absurdly hard work and faith. You don’t know if the men running things are doing it the right way. You don’t know if you will plant a foot wrong during an exercise, land the wrong way and end your career. People always wonder why athletes don’t seem that smart, but it’s because you can’t be. A track cycling friend who was one of the fastest riders I have ever seen, didn’t make it. A coach told him once, “You’re too smart to be a sprinter!” What that meant was that instead of just doing it, this rider wanted to know why. Full buy in never came, so complete success never came.

It’s worth thinking about what athletes must do when a new coach comes in. This is a man who can potentially waste a so, so precious year of your life, time and effort that you can’t get back. Ask a great athlete if they’d rather finish 2nd or 10th, and most would say 10th because 2nd means it was a little something that you didn’t do that kept you from ultimate success. Tenth is just “Well, we lived to race again.” Second is anguish because if you don’t win, well …

Yes, there is European football and the money that comes with it, etc, and another shot on the biggest club football stage, but no. Athletes know. They know when they are good enough, when they have hope. During a telecast of the Paris-Roubaix bicycle race in the ‘90s, a rider named Theo de Rooy was talking about working on the team and a moment came when he said, essentially, “I know that I am not good enough to win, so I have to work for the team.” It was then and still is now a moment that brings tears to my eyes. The pain in his face, in his eyes was clearly visible, that reality no athlete wants to face: I am not good enough to win.

Because you want to win while you can, you treat everything with suspicion because you have to, even as you don’t have that luxury. Nutrition, performance monitoring, new systems of play. It is up to the coach to convince the players that he has the correct formula, that at the end of this arc that is a season of work, and training, and eating right, and sleeping right, and preventive maintenance and properly planned rest days, we will win. And the athlete has to believe, or he screws himself.

Sometimes, more talented players have less diligence, less buy in because talent can bridge a gap. Mascherano enters the pitch always turned on because intensity, unrelenting focus is his edge. Puyol wasn’t a great center back because he had gobs of talent. He was a great center back in part because he always played with that athlete’s awareness that this moment is everything, the embodiment of the adage, “there is no tomorrow.” It is in many ways the ultimate manifestation of the Buddhist saying, “Be here now.” This tackle is It. Then the next tackle is It. At the end of a series of single moments embraced in full, something good might happen. Puyol played with abandon because that was how he had to play, giving everything to each and every moment. Messi has the luxury of picking and choosing because he has been blessed with transcendent talent. He can decide, “Today I will give everything.” It is on the days he plays like Puyol that footballing sonnets are written about him and the wonder of it all. And yet the days on which he decides to play, really play, for 5 or 10 minutes are extraordinary as well because that is talent.

When a striker misses a shot, supporters slam hands to heads or fall to the floor and social media fills with anguished, “What! How!” You rarely see such emanations from athlete accounts because they understand exactly how. They understand the stupid physics of a foot striking a ball, how a dollop of moisture in the wrong place makes the shot not as true, makes the ball slip off the foot at an odd angle. They understand how fatigue makes you lean back instead of over, how striking the ball the exact right way at the exact right time is black art that the best make look automatic. They understand because they have been there.

And so we come to today, when nearing the end of a long season of hopes, dreams and effort, of belief and doing everything exactly right, FC Barcelona stands on the precipice of something extraordinary: victory.

When players celebrate a win it’s with something extra, something shared in the countless hours of suffering and effort. That celebration is a sigh of relief that some crazy thing didn’t happen to undo it all – injury, moment of blind luck, referee error. Winning is better than sex, better than almost any feeling that an athlete can experience. As supporters we can celebrate, we can leap around, we can exult, but we can’t understand. In many ways that’s good because if we well and truly understood, it would probably leave us afraid to watch games, afraid to check results, afraid to do anything except wonder how in the hell these men do it, week after week much less do it well enough to beat another team.

It’s wonderful, and extraordinary and at times impossible. An announcer for BeIN, Dre Cordero, Tweeted that it boggled his mind how Barca supporters could take something so extraordinary as a Treble, and reshape it into an expectation. Winning something, anything is magical. Visca!

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Written by:

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.

72 Comments

  1. georgjorge
    May 12, 2015

    That is a beautiful article – and like you mention at the end, it really makes me a bit afraid of what competitive football has become. Apparently, we do not care about players sacrificing some of their mental and physical health in order to bring us beautiful football and the feeling of success (never mind the many players who do all that without ever getting a sniff of the first team). They have free choice (at least formally) and a lot of money, but still.

    Andrés Iniesta: “I remember when the referee blew the final whistle in the World Cup final, the first thing I thought of was the pain. The suffering. Instead of thinking: ‘I’m a world champion,’ I thought of that.”

    As for tonight’s match – while the players surely aren’t complacent, I am. I am usually rather nervous about Barca’s Champions League matches, but I just cannot imagine this match leading to anything else than Barca prevailing in the tie. It’s not too bad watching a match with an eye for beauty instead of constant strain.

  2. Jim
    May 12, 2015

    Duplicate post removed.

    — Mods

  3. Jim
    May 12, 2015

    It’s certainly a big day for us. When I said at the start of the season I was sure we’d lift at least one of the big ones I was more thinking of La Liga than the CL.

    I’m also totally humbled by the attitude and mental toughness of the couple of couple of decent level athletes I know. One is/ was a pretty high level squash player and having seen the routines he went through almost every day ( and the state his body is in now – I know, mines isn’t much better) it’s a thought as to whether it’s worth it in the long run. Not for the very top people. I get what glory offers. I’m more thinking of the rider you cite who went through the pain despite knowing he was never going to be exceptional.

    Btw, a bit off topic but I came across this assessment of our midfield strategy. I’m guessing some won’t necessarily agree but it pretty much nails it down for me ( possibly aside from not understanding the down side of Cesc). Interesting anyway.

    http://www.insidespanishfootball.com/156187/the-death-of-the-number-four-a-betrayal-or-evolution-at-barcelona/

    • Jim
      May 12, 2015

      Ah, not sure why the double post happened. Please remove mods.

    • May 12, 2015

      That piece was good, even though it fell into some familiar old tropes about discarding this and that.

      It’s funny, my youth as a fat asthmatic keeps me going. And I just like being really fit and strong. It makes life easier, and I know that if I don’t race, I won’t train hard enough to make myself fit enough to reap the benefits of the effort.

      I finished my own training session, and got to thinking about this day, and how far this team has come.

  4. Archie
    May 12, 2015

    Thanks Kevin, really appreciate chance to think about the team as relationships and the stimulation of endeavoring together to win. Euler recommends this article:
    http://grup14.com/article/and-then-messi

  5. barca96
    May 12, 2015

    Should they attack from te start to score the 1st goal to kill the tie or go for control from the beginning?

  6. ciaran
    May 12, 2015

    It was a contest for 14 minutes or so

    • Jim
      May 12, 2015

      They could have scored four quite easily already, Ciaran. just as well Pep still thinks a three man defence hacks it. Utter stupidity.

  7. Jim
    May 12, 2015

    Pep will do well to survive his tactics of tonight, I reckon.

  8. Jim
    May 12, 2015

    Ter Stegen has already produced a world class performance .

  9. Jim
    May 12, 2015

    Ok, what’s Pep saying to Messi as they go off ?

  10. ciaran
    May 12, 2015

    Ter Stegen has been immense. 5 or 6 top notch saves and the other reason that the second half is a formality. The main reason of course is the chemistry between our front three giving us 2 goals.

    For the record, our target man is winning a nice few headers for a little Argentine 🙂

  11. agar2515
    May 12, 2015

    Onto Berlin, screw Bayern, they needed to get knocked down a peg

  12. May 12, 2015

    This match is a delight to watch. Both goals from the kind of direct football that just cuts a team open. Now to become a Juventus fan for a day.

  13. May 12, 2015

    Freakin’ Ter Stegen. 12m? Get outta town. I know that the focus is always on Douglas and Vermaelen because it has to be, and throw in a Song, but this board has an impressive transfer success record.

    • agar2515
      May 12, 2015

      It is because we wasted several prime years of Messi and co.
      By not reinforcing the backline, not getting a real ‘9’ to replace Villa. We get Mathieu and Suarez and look what happens. Was always high on TS
      Though.

    • agar2515
      May 12, 2015

      But you know what? Who cares? They’ll be out this summer and we’re in the UCL final. I’m so tired of nitpicking things here and there, especially when it comes to the board. No transfer makes up for that shameful ban and Neymar case.

  14. lala10
    May 12, 2015

    We need more control in the second half.

    • Jim
      May 12, 2015

      Agreed and we know who that means but we’re getting aped to instead of Suarez.

    • Jim
      May 12, 2015

      Sorry, Pedro.

    • agar2515
      May 12, 2015

      This is a perfect time for Pedro. When his engine can come in to rest one of MSN and yet his engine makes up for taking them off ( if the arent chasing a goal )

    • ciaran
      May 12, 2015

      I would have thought that Xavi was the substitution needed but maybe it was a precaution or Suarez was tired. Still, it allows Messi to move centrally and maybe help with possession as well as freeing him more defensively

    • Jim
      May 12, 2015

      They’ve been all over us for most of the game in midfield. Are Rakitic and Iniesta’s even playing ?

    • Jim
      May 12, 2015

      Way to go, LE. Invite more pressure onto us.

    • agar2515
      May 12, 2015

      Of course as I laude Pedro it becomes painfully obvious that the drop off is immense from
      Suarez. Bayern in a back 3, no need to worry about Pedro like the did Luis

  15. Jafri
    May 12, 2015

    Congratulations, all 🙂

  16. Tata2
    May 12, 2015

    I became nervous as soon as that Pedro substitution was made, now the difference is clear, he runs, he defends doesn’t cut it for me as was plain for all to see. If Suarez was still playing in the second half the result would be different just as I hope this quietens the defenders of pedro

  17. Tata2
    May 12, 2015

    When you want to sit back and counter you have got to have good counter attacking attackers, we had that in the first half until that guy who runs and defends came in to the foray

  18. ciaran
    May 12, 2015

    In the history books it’ll look like a Bayern win but the ref could have blewn the final whistle when Neymar scored the second.

    It was a lesson in why Messi Neymar and Suarez are so important to us as a trio. Poor Pedro works so hard but there is no fear factor whatsoever.

    I would have liked to see the second half if Xavi came on for Iniesta or Rakitic to calm things down.

    The goals were a direct result of us switching off. Masch got too close to Lewa for his goal and no one dived in front of Muller’s shot

    • Davour
      May 12, 2015

      I agree; it was an awful second half, but no need to waste energy overdoing it. Bayern had the motivation (pride), we were just waiting for the game to end. Even so, who misses the false 9 formation…? It became evident we are less impressive in terms of time-killing possession. But we are more impressive in terms of effective counters and producing goals.

      I have always loved Berlin; let’s hope the city stays kind (to us!).

    • agar2515
      May 12, 2015

      Exactly why I don’t rate him as highly As others. The gulf in class is clear, and he can only ”
      Super sub ” against smaller clubs or when we are ahead.

    • G6O
      May 12, 2015

      It will remain as a question mark whether the second half was so bad because Pedro replaced Suarez or because we switched off in general.

      But I don’t think we can afford to run the experiment (playing Pedro instead of Suarez against one of the top 3 teams in Europe) given everything we have seen.

      Hopefully there is no problem with Suarez.

      If I was to play Pedro in the second half and could choose, in hindsight I would have probably replaced Neymar. Such was the impact of the loss of the reference point in the attack

    • agar2515
      May 12, 2015

      I’m def not blaming him for that second half, only that he doesn’t contain the magic/ genius moment that can overcome such a performances. He was ghost.

  19. kosby
    May 12, 2015

    one win away from being Champions of Europe ! O.M.G !

  20. Jim
    May 12, 2015

    First of all, we’re in the final. So everything else is just talk. Always, always a great performance to get this far.

    However, that was pretty much a horror show for me. Never thought I’d live to see the day we’d stuff ten behind the ball and hoof it every chance we get. No point in bringing Xavi on with fifteen minutes left then slinging it over his head. Pretty much panic mode towards the end despite the result.

    Full credit to Bayern. They played a great game ( defenders and Pep aside) . Just as well they didn’t have the two wingers as well.

    • Rami
      May 12, 2015

      The 2nd half simply came down to a team who still has two finals to play and a partial final against altetico, Against a team fighting for it’s last chance for a trophy this season and literally have nothing to lose.
      Even an animal with no brains would’ve lost it’s intensity in the 2nd half after a 5-1 aggregate, I don’t blame our players one bit.

      To berlin!, And i wish juventus all the luck in the world.

      A treble and a trophy less RM, Please god make it happen.

  21. Cyclops
    May 12, 2015

    My honest opinion : i’m highly dissapointed in luis enrique, i’m super super super dissapointed in Luis enrique…We dont know how to defend ? what were we doing out there ? werent we defending ? or i suppose we were playing ultra-attacking football ?? i mean, there was zero positional play, awful first touch, zero balance, players were basically walking, while the bayern guy’s just waltz past them, conceded territory totally to them, and to crown it all, barca stood right in their six-yard area, relaxing and waiting for the bayern guy’s, still yet the bayern players glided past them, lilke there werent there…

    I’d say it one more time, i’m heavily dissapointed in luis enrique, totally…And no, this is not me being frustrated here, i’ve said it already that i had my reservation for the firstleg of this tie, and right from time i had my reservation on Luis enrique as a coach…He was suppose to convonce me with this fixture, but i tell yo what, he failed dismally…

    All through out the game, i was beggining to think it more of a “chelsea-esque” eveolution than “possesional evolution”…All i have to say is, i’m totally dissapointed in Luis enrique as a coach, thats all…And in all honesty, if the incoming board decide to give luis enrique the boot, whether he wins the treble or not i couldnt care less, i’d be 150 percent behing them…

    And what were yo guy’s even talking about that the first half was okay ?, it was abysmal in my opinion, when last did saw barca played that way, then the second half, was like the icing on the cake, the team was totally played off the park- and thats by a team lacking their key players, thats a team that came to camp nou, and emplyed crazy high pressing, that were arguably the better team in the second half of that first leg…Then preceding the second leg of these same time, Luis enrique spewed gibberish about, how we dont know how to defend , we’d go there and play our normal football, bla bla bla…then when the time came, i was subjected to eye-paining football..and i’m suppose to say: thank you sir, for taking us here, notwithsanding the sour football. really? if then, i think he should probably have another think coming…

    • ciaran
      May 12, 2015

      The tie finished completely after Neymar’s second goal. Everything that happened after that was completely irrelevant.
      You are reading way way way too much into the game.

    • Rami
      May 12, 2015

      Sorry man, But what??

      A team that doesn’t know how to defend can’t possibly get 6 clean sheets in a row, Or 22 clean sheets in la liga, Or keep someone like beyern from taking a single shot on target in camp nou.

      If you’re disappointed in coach that won by a 5-1 aggregate against the champions of Germany after 145 minutes, Or that is about to give us a treble on his first season, Then there is nothing that won’t disappoint you, And hence nothing to argue about with you further.

    • TITO
      May 12, 2015

      Ok Cyclops, you got our attention. Now what?

    • May 12, 2015

      ur right. how dare they take their foot off the pedal after being up by only 5-1. what a pathetic team. lucho out.

  22. georgjorge
    May 12, 2015

    It was exactly one half of bad football in a season loaded with beautiful wins. The team is still in the Champions League final, Copa final and nearly league champion. I’m not sure how you get to the conclusion that Luis Enrique is a bad coach for Barca unless you expect every single game to be magnificent (which seems rather unrealistic).

    Either he or the players (or both) definitely messed up the second half today. But it was obvious that most of our players had already marked the game as won (or a close enough loss) in their heads, as would be expected when the opponent needs to score five in one half. Against a team like Bayern, this kind of attitude gets punished.

  23. ooga aga
    May 12, 2015

    we. are. in. the. final. we will beat either Juve oR Real M, no concerns here. very proud of this team.

    well, it’s been about an hour since the final whistle, a quick look at the comments here….about a dozen since end of match…half the folks happy about the state of things, the other half with nothing more to say than anti-pedro, anti-luis enrique, or griping about the second half.

    Cules. ENJOY WHAT YOU HAVE. DONT LAMENT WHAT YOU DONT HAVE. That is all.

  24. 86ed
    May 12, 2015

    Great to have reChed the final despite a lacklustre second-half performance.

    Real should be able to beat Juve tomorrow. It will make for a great Classico.

  25. IamXavi6
    May 12, 2015

    I cant belive what Im reading. We just qualfied for the cl final and all I see is bashing? ARE YOU FOR REAL?

    do you undeestsnd this tie was over after 45mins today?

    You also realise we have beaten the champioms of germany, france, england tl be here right?

    AND PEOPLE ARE UNHAPPY!

    You are not true barca fans nor understand this club. Take your plastic support and get out.

  26. bedhead
    May 12, 2015

    Pep smiled and said “that’s enough, Lio” while walking back to lockers at halftime. This game was done and dusted with the 3-0 win at home. Unfortunately for Bayern, their key players were out and they never had what it took to beat Barca during two legs. A real sense of who was the better team couldn’t be ascertained with missing superstars. But those are the breaks. Iniesta needs to take a a seat or two because he is surviving on fumes from his 2010 world cup win.
    Barca went to defensive mode second half and Messi and his 10 men went easy on Pep and let him retain some sense of pride allowing their 3-2 win.

    • 86ed
      May 12, 2015

      You know, Bayern did not take it easy on us 2 years ago. They destroyed us home and away, and they cheered even when they scored the 7th goal. They kicked us when we were down, as it were.

      This was a missed opportunity to do the same to them.

      Onwards to the final. It will be fun.

    • deckardcain
      May 12, 2015

      Seriously, who cares? They still had a good lineup to have a chance in this tie, we did not last time we faced off. I have no idea why people are seeing this match as a loss for Barcelona. We kicked their butts in the first game, and scored two magnificient goals signed MSN in the first half of this game, but still people complain because we conceded?! I am at a loss of words really, who the hell do you people think you are? These athletes acomplished something incredible, and you have the guts to complain because we didn’t win every game up until the final?

      Shame on you.

      This season is even more impressive than Guardiolas first season. Yes I said it. I don’t care about the subsequent titles, what I’ve seen this season is extraordinary, and I will cherish it forever.

      You should too.

    • Jamal103
      May 12, 2015

      86ed has his opinion and so do you. You have no right to send shame rays his way for expressing himself in this space. He’s partially right in that Bayern did NOT take their foot of the pedal when the hammered us at home. Nevertheless, we need to accept the reality that we have a final in less than 5 days–away from home at the Calderon.

      I think we should be most concerned with the Suarez injury tbh.

    • deckardcain
      May 12, 2015

      No one has the right to shame the club or the players after defeating Bayern 5-3 on aggregate.

    • 86ed
      May 12, 2015

      Shame on me? Do declare a witch hunt why don’t you?

      I have no idea what you are on about. Nothing controversial has been said or written. We sucked in the second half. Whether it was because we let them off the hook or because they were better is irrelevant. They scored two unanswered goals and Wong the game. As it happened it was an empty victory, but one that could conceivably cover their asses and say that 2013 was no fluke.

  27. May 12, 2015

    Even on this wonderful day, must we fight among ourselves?

    That match was over after the second Neymar goal. Barça knew it, and Bayern knew it. Our team went into “limp home” mode, and pretty much played to not give up 5 goals. That group bore about as little resemblance to the idealized, in form Barça of this season as I do to Shakira.

    There is a significant match to be played on the weekend. The key was in-match rest, and no injuries. The final score truly didn’t matter as long as the team was on the right side of the aggregate total. This group has been pragmatic all season, so why would it change now? Why exert the energy to win by 100 feet when all you need is an inch or two?

    Win at Atleti, and the Liga is done and dusted. I don’t think this group wants to leave it to Deportivo even though that match is at home, because you just never know. So yes, they played with the weekend in mind.

    Barça is in the Champions League final. It’s as simple as that.

  28. IamXavi6
    May 12, 2015

    Oh, and the irony of ‘lucky Bayern had 2 wingers out’ from Barca fans..

    yet, last season, nothing about ‘lucky for Bayern we were injured and out of sorts’

    Absolute BS arguments. We Owned Bayern.

  29. bedhead
    May 12, 2015

    Call it whatever you like, respect for Pep, respect for Bayern – taking our foot off the gas was an intelligent, tactical decision made by LE.

  30. 42
    May 12, 2015

    Lucho has demonstrated extreme pragmatism over the course of this season (i.e. to win by using the smallest amount of resource possible). If we can win a game by 2-0, we’re not gonna go crazy over trying to score five. The “taking your foot off the gas pedal in the second half” approach has cost us once(the draw against Sevilla) but most of the time we got off safely, and it’s a key for our team’s extremely good fitness level this season.

    Ribery remained on the pitch the whole time in Bayern’s 7-0 thrashing of Shakhtar, since the Germans never knew when to stop attacking…until he got off injured. A few other Bayern key players got injured in unnecessary situations too when they’ve already won the game but still won’t stop attacking full-force. Barca is much smarter in contrast. You can complain that Barca never plays a full 90-minute show…but being cautious helped us get to the final stretch of the season, unharmed and in great form.

    That said, I do hope Lucho never adopts the double pivot again…being too conservative made us lose the midfield and gave it up for Bayern to attack us as much as they want. It’s too dangerous, thank God Ter Stegen saved us again and again. Lucho and the players have all said before that the best way for Barca to defend is to attack, but we hardly made any threat towards Bayern’s box. To be fair, though, Suarez was missing from our trident in the second half, so this game also shows how important Suarez is in our system.

  31. Chiu
    May 12, 2015

    – This game is over after Ney second goal. Period. After that, we’re not even hitting the second gear and Bayerns two goals were irrelevant. They should score five in 45 minutes and that only happen once in a century againts top form FC Barcelona.

    – It feel so good after 4 years since 2011, we are back in the champions league final. Would prefer Juve in the final, though. Congrats for the team.

    – Ter Stegen!

    Visca Barca

  32. Barcathegreatestever
    May 12, 2015

    Saw the game late and surfing all the sites can only find one mention that Suarez had some discomfort in his hamstring. I’m Crossing my fingers that it won’t affect him. Then I read hate comments and the outrage against. Jeez guys Real Madrid have that down to an art. Haters gonna hate, best just to ignore them. Now if I can only take my own advice. Thankyou Barca for a wonderful tremendous season so far I’m proud to have witnessed it all. May good luck shine on your incredible talent and work till the end!

    The only thing going for Madrid right now will be the fantastic pressure of the home crowd. I hope it’s not enough, I hope Juve can last, I hope they beat Madrid, even if it means seeing Casillas and Bale get crucified. There’s just too much hate in this world , choose not to!

  33. Lord Eddard Stark a.k.a. Brichimbrodvoken, the vulnerable one!
    May 12, 2015

    .

    we took it easy on pep.

    and by we, i mean lucho and leo. Ain’t No doubt about it.
    I couldn’t have scripted this two legged tie any better. It was scripted in such a manner that Barca weren’t really in serious trouble at any point and we had a luxury margin after the first tie. It also enabled our beloved EX to go out with pride.

    both games showed a proactive Bayern who won the battle of possession and created many chances. The Pep stock did not decrease one bit and I was actually proud of the way his team played. I would even go as far to say that Bayern were the superior team for the larger percentage of minutes, but ultimately toothless – an all too familiar situation when Pep was coaching us too. Unfortunately those last 15 minutes in the Camp sounded the death knell for the FCB from Bavaria.

    Yes it was a bit odd seeing us being dominated like that in the 2nd half, but i again return to the first sentences i wrote in this post. I have no doubts that the intensity would have been significantly different if the aggregate score had been more even. If I were Pep’s friend (as Lucho keeps reminding us that he is) I would have done the same thing too.

    As for those who have some atrocious expectations and insane reactions, I’d urge them to skip out on the CL final in Berlin (that i shall watch happily) and instead watch the replay tape of our glorious exit to chelsea in 2012 (with satisfaction).

  34. Barcathegreatestever
    May 12, 2015

    I don’t know enough about the game to truly understand the problems they faced in the second half but it reminded me of the Sevilla game. Iniesta and Rakatic were done, Masch was left on the bench for Xavi, Neymar was famously off for Pedro. Sergi and Pique were carrying yellows. Sevilla jumped every pass and started attack after attack, our passes got smaller and smaller, not effective in the whole. Long balls played out to forwards with no support. The team shape was disorganized. Here again Pedro, more of a clinical finisher and harasser on defense for me wasn’t effective maybe Rafinha is a better choice on the wing when control is the priority. Enrique tried different tactics but essentially same result, something to watch going forward

  35. Tata2
    May 12, 2015

    Question is whether we actually took our foot off the pedal or we simply did not have any answers to the way Bayern were attacking and harassing on the press. Madrid made us suffer this way in the first classico and also in the first half of the second leg. Absence of midfield control in games like these is something that worries me. Whenever we come up against teams that can keep the ball well and harass is on the press we tend to suffer. I seriously at this stage support the pogba signing of that will enable our midfield go toe to toe with that of top clubs like these. Back to the game, I am not complaining about the tactics in the second half but what’s obvious is that things became worse when Suarez came off. Our attack was reduced to nothing and we looked toothless as compared to the first half. I don’t know what happened to Suarez that led to the substitution but its obvious that Bayern would have had to think twice if he was there as one long ball upfront to him or Messi would have dealt them another death knell. Key is sit back and absorb the pressure and then hit on the counter but in our own case, it was sit back and absorb pressure then hand the ball right back to Bayern to come right at us. Those of you who still think Pedro has what it takes in big matches like this might want to rethink that, if Suarez is injured then I think we have a serious problem. Am also worried that if we get Madrid i
    n the final, the may employ the take charge of midfield and render INI and co useless then attack with such intensity and harass on the press with same intensity. Without Xavi we are no longer a formidable midfield dominating team and it hurts that there’s nothing we can do about that

    • May 12, 2015

      The problem was that Messi, Saurez and Neymar never pressed. Ca’t blame them. But had they done that the midfield could not have been over-run.

      Having said that, the similar line-up should work well against Jueventus. But against Madrid, it won’t be a bad idea to go for a 4-5-1 with Messi playing centrally behind Saurez. Remember if all players are fit, RM would be having Kroos, Isco and James(assuming Modric’s season is over). If that’s the case, then Messi in center will destroy that center pairing. Using Messi on Right win is great but Rakitic will be pressed out of the game. If Messi plays in front of midfield and behind Saurez, that chance comes down.

  36. May 13, 2015

    Some scary fact:
    Barca has made 7 Champions league final before this one. Won all the finals where the team was considered as Home team. Lost all where we were the away team. This season’s final we are the away team? Will it be our first win in an away jersey?

  37. TITO
    May 13, 2015

    We are three f.cking games from glory, so can you please stop complaining about the second meaningless half where was obvious that we took the pedal of the hook. Pep didnt got embarassedband thats fine for me.
    Enjoy the following days cause they will be days to remember.

  38. Kd
    May 13, 2015

    Can’t believe what I am reading from some fellas here.
    Guys, BARCA DID NOT care. You really think, with the match at a knife edge we would have played like we did in the second half. Listen, its plain n simple, Bayern n more importantly Pep have their dignity intact. We did not thrash them cos we didn’t want to. Messi just played sideways n backwards passes throughout the second. The team switched off/couldn’t care less. Man, we have a really tough Atleti game coming up on the weekend. Why try n exhaust ourselves? Think bout it. As a coach would you rather finish off the league in the penultimate game or wait for Deportivo to come to town. Top that off with the fact that Depor r fighting relegation. No chance. You conserve energy and as a win win situation you let your ex coach, a friend, a mentor keep his dignity. Completely agree with you “Lord Eddard Stark….”
    But I loved the way Bayern played. It was so reminiscent of Barca of Pep days. Slow buildup, probing, looking for opening and then suddenly, bam bam bam..Lovely!!
    On a side note this is what came to my mind after 20 minutes of watching the game and Messi in particular..
    Chillin chillin chillin, “Eye of the needle (for the Goal)”, chillin chillin chillin… Wow!!
    Also did you guys see the intelligence of Suarez for the first goal. Messi has the ball, and you see Suarez jogging, that little jog lulls the centre halfs to think they have him in their sights. Suddenly he starts sprinting diagonally. He sees space. At the same time, Messi sees space and fires a ball in collected by Suarez and the rest is history. Loved that by Suarez. I kno that most of you saw that but really I had to menton it.
    So our whole season now hinges on winning 3 games. Win em all and our Barca would have done the unthinakble. Cos I doubt any of us gave them an honest chance to do the Treble this season. Spoilt we r, no. So much happiness this team has given me through the ages. I love them and really want them to do another Champions League.

  39. Tata2
    May 13, 2015

    What’s up with the ‘if players go on strike then barca will win the league without having to play the two remaining games?”

  40. Davour
    May 13, 2015

    I am overjoyed we have reached the final. The reason my joy is “subdued” is partly due to the second half. Not because we did not dominate or beat Bayern to a pulp, but that the sit-back strategy emphasized that there is more to go. Just like the players did not start running around screaming of joy, I too feel the weight of what is to come, and the implications are humbling. First final on Saturday: to me, it seems the players, as well as their coach, have their priorities straight.

    Suarez was taken off out of precaution, but either way, this enabled some on-field rest for Messi, freeing him of defensive duties. Intelligent move, to my mind. We made a difference when it mattered; we responded swiftly to their goal, adding another just to be safe – Messi – Suarez – Neymar x 2. It was simply wonderful to see.

    • Davour
      May 13, 2015

      Must quote the wise Masch on the same note: “We are three games away from everything… and three games away from nothing”.

  41. Chiu
    May 13, 2015

    Treble is so close. I was not even thinking about the CL final at the beginning of the season with the new coach and some new face in some position. But now, the feeling just amazing. We need to finish this season on high note, grab all the three titles. This is a very rare occasion in our history as football club. Am borrowing Pep statement last week in the context of Barca to put some perspective: ” How many times Barca win treble in it’s history?” We must cherish this moment and support the team till the finish line on Berlin 6th June

    Visca Barca!

  42. May 13, 2015

    Congrats to Barca and all fans. We are again in the final. Thats the most important thing right now.
    About the game, Goods:
    We managed 2 away goals and hence are in the final
    We are in the final
    We are in the final
    We are in the final
    Both goals coming through M-S-N route, that is incredible
    Ter Stegen was excellent
    Neymar will be our CR7 of the future.

    Bads:
    Whatever we have learnt about set piece defending, seems we forgot most of it today.
    We defend very well as an attacking team. As a defensive team, we are poor, really :),, we are scary actually.
    The second half show was a let down, nor did we manage to keep the ball nor defend nor counter – Now if that being a case of keeping an eye on Atletico / complacency or over confidence of having 5 goal lead or just being respectful to Pep, we will never know.
    To let BM to have that kind of a game in our half, for so long, was not nice.
    Neymar should have taken that shot, at least should have made a good pass, if at all he wanted to be generous.
    Masche had a comparably poor game

    Hope Suarez will be fine for Madrid match.
    Now, am going to be a Juventus fan. Tevez, Morata, Pirlo common.. We are all with you.
    I really dont want a Classico in the final.

  43. lala10
    May 13, 2015

    Fantastic achievement by the team. The second leg was inconsequential really. Bayern made it a tad exciting by scoring early but the Neymar goals put to bed any false hopes.

    Can forgive taking the foot of the pedal but how we did that was disconcerting. We are supposed to be masters of possession and closing out games. What this tells us is that the team still has some way to go. It can not consistently play on the back foot.

    Seville was another game in point. Going forward it may be advisable to always play on the front foot

    • bedhead
      May 13, 2015

      We are not the team of yesteryear that closes out games through posession. That skill, altough still most prevelent at Barca, has morphed into more of 10 players behind the ball – parked bus. Defensive duties, long balls and quick counters have replaced the art of posession as the new tactic to win games. We are no longer that team, nor should we be cause that style of play has been found out coupled with the fact that the key players of that sytem of play are semi – retired (xavi) or not in their prime (Iniesta) have rendered posession based futbol inadequate to win games.
      Hence, with the personnel now available on the Barca squad, we will be seeing more games in the future closed out like the Bayern second half. Some won’t like because it appears not as in control as when we mastered keep away , but you better get comfortable with it because it’s all about evolve or die.

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