At the end of yesterday’s 1-1 draw with Stuttgart, I was struck by one of the commentators babbling on about how the result was terrific for the German club. That suggests, then, that it was the opposite for Barcelona. Perhaps what he was suggesting was that Stuttgart was happy not to have lost to us, but that, I think, is insulting towards a club that could very well have come out the winners themselves.
Still, is Stuttgart happy with this result? Are we? Obviously the match itself was frustrating for a Barça fan used to the squad turning in controlled performances rather than a first half filled with grievous errors that really should have been punished by Stuttgart–Die Roten, or The Reds, as they’re known–but instead a missed handball in the box by Pique and a missed handball on a goal line clearance by Molinaro kept the aggregate score lower*, which is a good thing for Stuttgart in many respects. A 2-2 draw would have given Barça the absolute upper hand because only a win or a 3-3 draw or greater in the return leg (March 17) would put Stuttgart through.
As it stands, Stuttgart still have to score at the Camp Nou, which means they can’t sit back and absorb pressure like they did throughout the second half. That the Camp Nou field is extra wide and isn’t a trash heap overlaid with some grass-like spray paint will also not make it comfortable for Die Roten, but they do have the advantage of knowing a 2-2 or greater draw and any win whatsoever will see them through. A far more likely scoreline than a high-scoring draw is 0-0, of course, but Barça will be looking to win the match outright and not leave it up to a bad bounce or unlucky call or play.
What was the only truly absurd call I saw throughout the match (see footnote for other thoughts on the ref) was Khedira’s yellow card at the end of the match, which should have been a straight red for a professional foul, a last man tackle, or a vicious tackle on Messi. Any of those three rules warranted direct dismissal, but it’s not such a big deal that they’ll have him and his awful facial hair in their lineup in the return leg. I’m not the least bit afraid of them, to be honest.
To the outcomes of the second leg:
If Barça wins by any scoreline, then we’re through.
If Stuttgart wins by any scoreline, then they’re through.
If it’s a draw then
- 0-0 puts Barça through
- 1-1 takes the match to extra time and possibly penalties
- 2-2 or greater (3-3, 4-4, etc) puts Stuttgart through.
So the draw is a negative for Stuttgart in that they have no choice but to score. A goalless draw away does them no good at this point as it would put us through. However, that they didn’t lose gives them hope of either beating us outright or getting a high-scoring draw, thus putting them through. That they didn’t give up a second goal to us is huge for them, but that we didn’t give up a second to them is equally as big, I believe. In the end, this is a good result for us because, as has been mentioned before commenters, we have yet to win a Champions League knockout stage away leg under Pep Guardiola, but we have also never failed to go through after an away draw (1-1 Lyon, 1-1 Bayern Munich, 1-1 Chelsea). Hopefully the Lyon history repeats itself and we blast Stuttgart off the face of the earth in the first half at the Camp Nou.
What are your thoughts?
*The penalty against Marquez that some (Marca) have been clamoring about was not a penalty in my book. Besides having already been bowled over by Cacau in his own box and it resulting in no call and a sliding effort by Puyol to get the ball away from Pogrebnyak’s lurking feet, Rafa barely touch him and he went down like a load of bricks tossed off the Empire State Building. Calling that a penalty would mean that touch fouls were being called and the ref (Bjorn Kuipers) wasn’t calling much of anything as a foul. It’s also probably noteworthy that Kuipers was the ref for the Barça-Dynamo match at the Camp Nou during the group stage and I don’t think anyone had any complaints about his neutrality then–0 yellow cards for Barça and 2 for Dynamo. I just think he had an off day in which he missed obvious handballs–though I will admit I saw neither of them in live action because I thought it had gone off Pique’s stomach as well and I actually thought Molinaro headed it clear. I should not be a ref.