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An Ode to Barcelona

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If Barcelona lose to Chelsea on Wednesday, it will be a monumental injustice. This game, for once, is as important as the pundits make it out to be: it is the battle between everything that is wrong with football (Chelsea) and the few remaining glimmers of hope for the sport (Barcelona).

Chelsea, as we all know, are the archetypical villains of the modern football world. They are ruled by an oligarch and fueled by the petrodollar. In this season’s Champions League competition, they, along with the other English teams, have played well enough, running riot over lesser teams and playing anti-football when they come up against teams that match their might (there are, of course, notable exceptions, such as the Blue’s thrilling 4-4 draw with Liverpool). In this manner, they have backed their way into the semi-finals without breaking much of a sweat.

On the other side of the equation we have Barcelona. I’ll be honest: for many years, I wasn’t a Barca fan. I stayed on the sideline as everyone jumped on the Ronaldinho bandwagon from two years ago and rooted for Arsenal in the 2006 Champions League final. Recently, though, I’ve been practically mesmerized watching them play. I’ve started watching them whenever they’re on GolTV. Their football is a sheer joy to behold. My first exposure to this football revolution was watching them systematically dismantl and embarrass Bayern Munich, a perennial European powerhouse, in the Champions League knockout, going 4-0 up in 45 minutes.

And what about this past weekend! Real Madrid made a feeble attempt at stealing the show in the first fifteen minutes, but I always knew Barca would storm to victory. And storm they did. The goal that epitomized the team’s beautiful attacking play was the fifth goal: Eto’s cool one-two with Messi, who, clean through on goal, had the poise to dummy Casillas before calmly slotting the ball in the corner.

Barcelona deserves to win on Wednesday because of their sheer exuberance for the game. Obviously, the players on both teams are lavishly paid, but Pep Guardiola has succeeded in instilling a simple love of the game that is so rare among professionals these days. For Gus and Co., every game is a job. For Barcelona, every game is a game.
Every time Barca attacks, the viewer sits up in his chair, holding his breath in anticipation, not sure whether to sigh in disappointment as a defender happens to break up a masterful move or laugh in glee as Messi or Eto or Henry skips around defender after defender before calmly leaving the goalkeeper for dead and slipping the ball into the net.

These movements appear so simple and that is the joy of watching it: the crisp passes, the prescient knowledge of where every other teammate on the pitch is going to be, the cool-headed finishing. This is how football should be played (and once was played, or so I’ve been told).

So Wednesday is an important day: it can perpetuate the money-grubbing, business-like side of the game or it can champion the poetry-in-motion, play-for-the-sake-of-playing style of play.

No offence Chelsea, but you deserve to lose: you deserve to roll over and let Barca hit 5 past you. Anything else would be an indication of just how low our modern game has sunk. For once, the Utterly Important need to swallow their pride and know when they’ve been defeated.

Chelsea v Barcelona – Live Blog – Champions League Semifinal 2nd Leg

Comments (44)

  1. Yes! Godammit, from the non-partisan lover of the game, Barca offer what football should deliver every single match…moments that make you feel privileged to be seeing what you’re seeing.

    I’m not going to go down the route of arguing with people that say “yea, but Barca would be sh*t in England, La Liga have no defence etc.” Forget that, forget winning or losing – because that isn’t what football is about. Its about joy, expression, art and entertainment, the way that Xavi rarely gets dipossessed, is always in control and makes sumptuous slide-rule passes; the way Messi and Iniesta dance around the opposition in the tightest of situations to make the right pass every single time or score a technical masterpiece of a goal.

    Barca will delight you every single time they step on to a pitch, win, lose or draw. There was a time when football was called “the beautiful game.” This is what Barca aspire to and it would be such a shame if they end up with nothing to show for it, particularly by losing to the likes of Chelsea.

  2. such a biased article from a barca fan…….
    let me got some things clear-i am no chavs fan(in fact i loathe them),i love the way barca play(henry messi iniesta xavi all play a scintillating brand of football)………

    but this article is so stupid coz chelsea under hiddink r not that dull a team and u cant judge chelsea by just that one game against barca….they defended n defended very well-but that is only because they were at camp nou…..the second leg at stamford bridge will come up in two days and u ll see wat i mean…..chelsea ll come out ready for a massacre,n they ll play an attacking game….hiddink is one great manager and im very sure he ll ve no doubts as to how to go through (and that is to score)…….

    the real question is how to handle the barca forward line while they attack.my prediction is going to be a 2-2 draw with barca going through

  3. Barcelona can play their beautifull football and have 99% possession. But Chelsea will crush them.As chelsea,we are already in the final.what matters in football is winning not beauty part of it.

  4. I can’t really go along with the idea that you can separate Barcelona’s style of play from the quality of the teams they face. For me, it’s the element of competition that’s exciting. It’s bound to be easier to pull out all your tricks against weaker teams; the mark of greatness is when you can do it against teams that have an idea of how to stop you. And that for me is where the true beautiul football comes in – when you have to find a way through effective tactics, either by individual brilliance or a tactical plan of your own, requirin flexibility and the skill to execute it. Otherwise, we’re merely watching a football equivalent of the Harlem Globetrotters – and that would soon start to get pretty dull.

  5. I am a man utd fan. Andrew you are a loser man! Yur rant is childish! u look like a moaning rafa benitez. I love the way barca play , but that does not mean they are a great team and have every right to rol over an opposition . Every great team should produce performance to justify it . The greatest game i have watched this season was chelsea vs barca. It was a tactical strangelhold . If barca were a great team u should have won at any cost . look at the facts , barca havent come acroos suvh a strong defence and midfield the entire season . Their league is way below our league in standard . Barca are no man utd . They can win against a stoke , Barca and chelsea. But I am damn sure barca wont win against stoke city when they are pitted in our league with our refrees around . Look at overrated Danny alves , he cnt defend , he will be skinned with over head balls and crosses . The central defensive pairing is one of the worst along with arsenal(it would be defnitely worse if gallas was around) in the semis . A great team should have all components rite . Barca are not a great team . They have a stupid backline which I am sure will be exposed at the bridge . A great team should be great in all departments and rise to the occasion . They didnt rise to the occasion in the first leg and will fall again at the bridge

  6. the liga is slowly becoming as weak as the german bundesliga in terms of defensive ability and somehow being a team who only attacks and has a woeful backline is meant to be a good thing. Defence is the heart and soul of modern football. You build from a strong foundation. Barcelona’s attack was shown to be fragile at barcelona, now its time for their house of straw to be blown away just like how liverpool and barce did to real madrid.
    I love barce’s fluid play, iniesta and messi are the two best players in the world. Xavi is like a metronome with a laser attached to his legs. Henry and eto’o are world class forwards and toure is a machine, up there with the best. That said cept for pique i dont rate any of barce’s defenders. Sure dani alves is good but he is good against teams that cant stop messi and leave him open. WHen chelsea stopped messi, dani alves looked lost and malouda had him in his pocket. expect chelsea to win 3-1 in normal time. All of chelsea’s goals coming first, 2 from drogba and 1 from set piece.

  7. idotic article seemingly written by someone who has not seen either team play before the CL. and if you think chelsea’s “petrol dollars” are bad, perhaps you should look beyond your barca hard-on a little bit and investigate barca’s ties to ismail karimov’s genocidal regime in uzbekistan. oil money v. systematic torture & executions?

  8. written by an arsenal fan, btw.

  9. I never thought I’d see the day when fans of the Premiership heralded defensive tactics as one of the hallmarks of the league’s strengths. How times have certainly changed.

    Mr. Sartori. Bravo. And I hope you’re vindicated when Barcelona take on Chelsea in leg 2 at Stamford Bridge.

  10. What you seem to fail to mention about Barcelona is their amazing arrogance, after the Chelsea games the sort of stuff Xavi and Alves were coming out with against Chelsea was shocking! Especially considering the amount of diving they did all through the game, I’ve lost a lot of respect towards them and I hope for FOOTBALLS sake that such a group of arrogant divers are pummeled by Chelski.

  11. I like the comments, especially the one about Stoke being better than Barca. No English bias at all.

  12. Shit article.
    ‘They are ruled by an oligarch and fueled by the petrodollar’????
    1)Alexander Hleb-15 Million Euros(after tempting hleb with more money till he considered buying out his own contract,it must be said)
    2)Dani Alves-32 Million
    3)Gerrard Pique-Undisclosed but probably in the region of 6-8 million
    4)Henrique-8 Million
    5)Martin Caceres-16.5 Million
    6)Seydou Keita-14 Million

    In contrast, Chelsea only had Deco for 10 million,Bosingwa for 20 million and Gokhan Tore for an undisclosed fee less than 10 million.

    And the year before that,they bought Henry,they bought Milito,they bought Yaya and numerous other players.
    It is one thing to laud a team for playing swashbuckling football,barcelona are absolutely brilliant,no doubt about it,but to call them everything that is right about football when obviously some of the faults that cause you to say that chelsea represent everything that is wrong with football, are obviously present in barca is stupid.How many starts has bojan got this season.You say chelsea buy players and put them on the bench,what about keita and hleb?
    And while chelsea are obviously no barca,this season they have played much better football.They aren’t boring anymore,everyone here will tell you that. Agreed, barca deserve to win but haven’t you taken things a bit too far?And since when has football become a just game?
    Lauding and deriding teams is one-things,over-hyping things,indulging blasphemy,making ridiculous statements and basically talking shit is another.And sorry,but that is all you have done in this article
    And i think this article represents what is wrong with football today,media talking crap.Ahmed,if this stuff continues to come,than soccerlens will become another goal.com.
    And btw,this comes from chelsea-hating barca-respecting manchester united fan

  13. From the “article”: Barcelona deserves to win…

    Sir: No team deserves anything until they’ve won it.

    Here endeth the lesson.

    cheers//dom

  14. LOL…exactly ahmed….he is an arsenal fan….frustrations showing right through his article…i thought chelsea arsenal were bitter rivals….andrew…shut your trap man….chelsea played a great game at nou camp…they are two different teams with two different styles….you are more attracted to the beauty that barca potray…thats the only reason you are writing this…as a chelsea fan this reaction is more than enough…rest will be given on the pitch on wed…

  15. The 1st leg has turned people in to Chelsea haters.Surely a team as talented & expensively assembled as Chelsea can atleast hold on the to the ball for more than 2 seconds before hoofing it long to Drogba.The manner of their performance may have angered the author.But Chelsea are desperate to win the Champions league so they’d do anything.Fair enough.

  16. Barca is great at what they do. Chelsea is great at what they do.
    No one deserves to win the game – except the club that wins the game.

  17. Andrew, you repeatedly state your opinion as it if were objective, verifiable fact. This nonsense about what football is all about and who represents the good and the bad of football is pure subjectivity on your part. In the end, you’re simply stating your preference for Barcelona and their style of play over Chelsea.

    Sports, as competition, are necessarily designed to produce winner and loser. That being the case, it’s fair to say that if sports are “about” any one thing, it is winning. I fail to see how pageantry, beauty, flair, or any other artistic element could possibly take precedence over the final outcome of a match. Therefore, when two teams tie, as did Chelsea and Barca at the Camp Now, it is ludicrous to assert that one side’s style of play is necessarily superior and preferable to another. As a matter of taste, you are certainly within your rights to state a preference, but the outcome is inarguable. And bare in mind, if Chelsea wins this week (without having broken any rules of the game), you will be in the absurd position of having claimed that the losing team plays the game in a superior way to the winning team. Again, as a subjective matter, that is all well and good. But to state objectively that the losing team plays the correct way, and that the winning team plays the incorrect way, is complete nonsense.

  18. It’s ironic because this is what Abramovich had wanted, ‘attractive football’ that Barca is playing, but now his team have gone negative to try to stop it.

  19. Right on Fateh!

  20. Arsenfan makes a fantastic statement. However, I would disagree with a lot of the guys suggesting that football is about winning. Come on…it really isn’t. Surely being entertained by what you see is more important than winning itself, from the perspective of a non-partisan football lover (not necessarily a fan or stakeholder in the club).

    For example, I’m a United fan and I want us to overcome Arsenal no matter what. A scrappy nil-nil would be fine for me as a supporter. But to those of you who follow neither club and will be watching tomorrow, surely you want your 2-hour investment in time to be rewarded with something breathtaking as opposed to a “tactical” nil-nil. Surely to the neutral and the football connoisseur the “pageantry” is more rewarding viewing than the result? Maybe I’m wrong but that’s what I want to see as a spectator. And for that Barca cannot be faulted, regardless of a supposed lack of competition etc etc.

  21. Since the majority of you barca fans think tactics are overated lets see….listen what kind of idiot would come out and start going at barca wrecklessly exposing themselves?….. incase if you haven’t noticed you havent beat a english club since arsenal WHO WAS DOWN TO 10 MEN THE WHOLE GAME!…also why the hell was henry dribbling the ball in the 1st leg WHILE BEING IN THE BOX? HENRY YOU CANT DRIBBLE! ….. look lets face the fact’s messi xavi inesta all 5’7 caceres is 19 and a young man WHO I HAVENT EVEN SEEN GET TIME IN LA LIGA! puyol marquez both out? WOW!
    so that means you literally have no one to mark drogba anelka both 6’2″…..and the rest of the chelski team is around 5’8″ average height wise face it attacking football isnt beautiful when you cant when nothing!

  22. Its really easy for all of you saying all this stuff about Barca to say this because the fact of the matter is you wish you’re team plays like them. It is easy to criticize Barca’s defense yes it is clearly not the best but what makes Barca great “ashwinred” IS that fact, the fact that they can overcome their problems go up against any team be it a team as lowly as Stoke or a team as mighty as Real Madrid or Bayern or Lyon and not only beat them totally outplay them. I guess that it is a testament to how Barca plays that even a great team like Chelsea has to have all 11 players defending against Barca while they did an admirable job at Camp Nou of preventing Barca from scoring if Chelsea does not play offense they can’t win …. well unless that is they play to a draw go to penalties and rely on luck NOT SKILL to beat their opponents. If Chelsea can beat Barca by outplaying them then the better team will have won and I will have absolutely no complaints but it Chelsea play for a draw and get lucky on penalties then they are a joke who cannot play against big teams oh and by the way they lost to Man U Liverpool and Arsenal this season aren’t those teams Chelsea’s closest rivals Well Barca beat all theirs at least once and some twice and the teams that they have beaten by more than 3 goals are weak teams even by Englands lofty standards and the teams that you faced in the CL were weak with the exception of juventus roma and liverpool and you barely got past them

  23. the simple fact is the chelsea was playing away from home against a team on form where they had the second leg advantage. Tactically the smart thing to do would be to go for a counter attack goal which chelsea tried to do, just like manU tried last year. Barce’s pitch though has been set up to stop that due to its increased length.
    Lets not get into the money side of things since i think the way la liga pays out clubs is grossly unfair.
    If you watch chelsea they have improved on the attacking aspect of their game over the years. The problem is the continued sacking of coaches with different styles means cohesion. Barce has been lucky in having a great style set down for 20 years now, that means many of its current home grown players have started out playing this. To see the current style chelsea wants you need to start going to their youth level and maybe then understand the general direction they will be headed. I like barce as a team since i think their ideals are very good, but first and foremost they have to find out the usually the most important thing is a very strong defense and after that you build on the offense. Thats why watching manU vs chelsea is so tense, both have a strong Defense and it comes down to luck and errors for goals to come.

  24. wow…that was quite a childish rant. Brilliant Barca are the victims against an Evil Chelsea squad with a devilish plan to ruin the game of football!!!

  25. @Sheldon S-
    As i said earlier,i agree with you.Barca are mindblowing.The way the play football,as Luis Enriques said,is orgasmic.Agreed.On present showing,easily the best team on the planet.
    @Ashik is also absolutely right.Winning isn’t everything.Don’t we all remember Cruyff and his 1972 band of magicians even though they lost?For all anybody cares,West Germany didnt even play that day.It was about Total Football.
    What if the same thing happens to barcelona today?
    Guys,it depends upon how barca play that day! If they play well,and their football is orgasmic as usual,then a defeat might be termed as unjust.But what if Chelsea turn it once?I know it isn’t likely,and hell,i don’t believe they can,or for that matter,anybody can dominate against the present barca side (except perhaps manchester united) but what if they do andrew? Will it still be injustice? Shouldn’t the prize go to the better team on the night,and not the better team throughout the season? So how can you say it will be an injustice,3 days before the match?
    And as i mentioned earlier,that bit about Barca being everything right about football and chelsea everything wrong is absolutely crap.I advice you to see Chelsea V Fulham.Chelsea weren’t at the best,but they played nice,attacking football.

  26. @Sheldon S-
    As i said earlier,i agree with you.Barca are mindblowing.The way the play football,as Luis Enriques said,is orgasmic.Agreed.On present showing,easily the best team on the planet.
    Ashik is also absolutely right.Winning isn’t everything.Don’t we all remember Cruyff and his 1972 band of magicians even though they lost?For all anybody cares,West Germany didnt even play that day.It was about Total Football.
    What if the same thing happens to barcelona? lol,is history set to repeat itself?
    BUT,Guys,it depends upon how barca play THAT day! If they play well,and their football is orgasmic as usual,then a defeat might be termed as unjust.But what if Chelsea turn it on for once?I know it isn’t likely,and hell,i don’t believe they can,or for that matter,anybody can dominate against the present barca side (except perhaps manchester united) but what if they do andrew? Will it still be injustice? Shouldn’t the prize go to the better team on the night,and not the better team throughout the season? So how can you say it will be an injustice,3 days before the match?
    And as i mentioned earlier,that bit about Barca being everything right about football and chelsea everything wrong is absolutely crap.I advice you to see Chelsea V Fulham.Chelsea weren’t at the best,but they played nice,attacking football, not a patch on barca agreed,but it was still entertaining to watch.Jose has left a long time ago,and you’re still into his stereotypes

  27. Sorry, I meant 1974 world cup.

  28. Sorry, I meant 1974 world cup

  29. What an idiotic article by a die hard barcelona fan. Are you telling us that football is about attack, attack and attack? Are you telling us that teams must play your style of play? You must be out of your senses. Very childish and irresponsible article.

  30. Yeah, what a load of rubbish.

    There is no such thing as injustice in football if a team who plays pretty loses to one which plays ugly. It just shows that qualities like determination, organisation and hard work (all that are possible via hard work) triumphs pure skill (possible only via pure luck).

    If barca wins, kudos to them for enabling their style of football to triumph. If they lose, they can only blame themselves for severe naivety. No team deserves to win anything by default. If you want to win something, you have to earn it. You don’t just play pretty football and expect your opponents to roll over for you to win. Maybe that’s the way in la liga, but no way are english sides going to be that incompetent.

  31. Even though I’m not much of a Man. Utd. fan I have to agree with Alex Ferguson and “Dominick – MUFC”. When you’ve won it, you deserve it.

  32. Son, you are a monumental injustice to soccerlens.

  33. Ah Well, Can’t waste time reading all the other posts.

    On the article….in 4 words…..complete and utter bollocks!

    Learn something about football before writing rubbish like this.

  34. After everyone has started to jump on the Barca bandwagon we finally see how arrogant Barca fans truly are…

  35. 1. Barca is not “everything good” in soccer.
    2. Chelsea is not “everything bad” in soccer.
    3. Barca is not the best team ever.
    4. Barca might play beautiful football, but English clubs play efficient and effective football.
    5. There is more to soccer than winning, but in the end, it comes down to winning.

    As if we need another “Ode to Barcelona”.

  36. What a hypocritical piece of trash. Barcelona spends as much money as everyone, and even is rumored to be doling out top dollar for Ribery this summer.. Spare me the “terrible injustices” committed by Chelsea with their chequebook.

    I didn’t hear anyne complaining last year when United parked behind the ball at Nou Camp and got their nil-nil; why is it such a big deal now?

    Shit article from a gloryhunting Barca fan who won’t be mesmerized by their football anymore in two years and will switch allegiance to a team in red.

  37. said by Sid: “andrew…shut your trap man….chelsea played a great game at nou camp…they are two different teams with two different styles….you are more attracted to the beauty that barca potray…thats the only reason you are writing this…”

    read again before posting. how can you say chelsea played great game at nou camp?? great game means exciting game, game when you put your opponent under a pressure, game when you are not outclassed by your opponent. by this criteria, barca is the only team that played the great game that evening.
    chelsea’s style of play isn’t defensive, neither is barca’s. but that night chelsea played the way they don’t usually do. why? it’s obvious – barca is a better team. barca still played the way the always do and chelsea changed the way they play the game. chelsea just couldn’t make a good action because barca dictated the match and dominated in the middle.

    if you can’t play offensively against your opponent but you play defensively and wait for counterattack, then it’s not about different styles of play – it’s about quality!

  38. EDIT: if you can’t play offensively against your opponent but you play defensively and wait for counterattack, that is not about different styles of play – it’s about quality!

  39. actually fortminor its about tactics. Sure chelsea could have gone out and attacked, but with a make shift left back against the best player in the world and playing away from home in one of the biggest stadiums in the world packed with barce fans in a pitch purpose made for barce’s football wouldnt be the smartest thing to do.
    Chelsea played to their strength’s their defense and drogba, they nearly got a goal from it so you cant say they played any worse than barce just different. Chelsea’s style of play is all about quick counters and width to stretch the defense, barce’s is all about forcing the opposing teams defensive line further up the pitch and then slipping a ball through the middle or using the flanks to bombard the defense. I think the idea that barce play an amazing style is based on the idea the possession play is the ideal of football. The problem with possession play is that it gives you maybe 4 attacking chances in a game max against top opposition, they will probably be done in a way that it will be a tap in but still 4 chances. Chelsea style of play though gives you around 15 chances in a game with only about a third being anything remotely at goal, but in a law of averages means that chelsea gets 1 more shot on target then barce does. Thats why the new brazilian teams are all about speed and counters because they have found its the most effective way to consistently win. When pressing play became important the fullbacks and wingers became the main avenues to score, chelsea’s style is such that it the most effecient way of winning, manU are no different and arsenal when they have all their players with them are not that different either, playing mainly on the wings and playing the ball to adebayor.

  40. I like Chelsea’s defense and defensive/center mids, but I can’t say that I’ve ever been to impressed with their offense… off-topic.

  41. I wonder how chelsea plans to win playing a 10-0-0 formation?? oh wait thats right hope barca doesn’t score go to penalties and get lucky…..oh wait that might work in barca’s favor if terry is gonna take a pk he’ll just choke again like in last year’s final haha
    GO BARCA SHOW CHELSEA HOW TO PLAY THE BEAUTIFUL GAME

  42. Justice has been served.

  43. @Alex: Justice has NOT been served. With 30% possession Chelsea dominated Barca and should have scored 2 or 3, penalties aside. 3 of the penalty shouts were jutified.

    All you idiots who talk about the ‘beautiful game’ know nothing about tactics and the balance between defence and attack, drawing your opponents, who only know one way of playing, onto to you and exploiting their weakness, in this case defence.

    I lost count of the number of 1 on 1s and 2 on 2s Chelsea’s forwards had. On another night they would have buried Barca and with another ref they should have.

    In 4 games against the 2 best defences in Europe Messi has been absolutely toothless.

    Great teams are about balance between defence, midfield and attack. Utd and Chelsea have that, Barca don’t.

    Utd will expose them for what they are in Rome.

  44. Yeah, Messi has shown his true colors as of late.