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Barcelona is the greatest footballing team in the world and Manuel Pellegrini needs to be fired from his job immediately
I've just watched the greatest footballing team in the world beat Manchester City, current champions of arguably the most competitive league in the world, by 2-1 in Man City's own stadium due to the stupidity of the home team manager, Manuel Pellegrini.
The word 'footballing' is specifically chosen.
Football (soccer, Association Football, footy, whatever you prefer) is not chess. In chess if you put Garry Kasparov or Magnus Carlsen up against good, seasoned, club-level chess players they will beat them every time, 1,000 times in 1,000 games, without even breaking sweat. But in football as in other team games, the weaker can beat the stronger. It won't happen very often, over time the cream rises to the top, but in individual games the "shock" can happen. Bradford City can beat Chelsea, Greece can win the European Championship, The Faroe Islands can beat Greece. The list of shock results is long and some of the upset games are legendary in their own rights. A good thing too.
The anatomy of a shock result is part of this equation. Sometimes the weaker team will rise to the occasion while the supposed stronger team takes its opponents for granted. Sometimes plain luck is involved. But in most cases the way a weaker team will beat a stronger one is by avoiding a straight fight, by setting its game to play around the better team, or to draw them in and try to beat them using swift counter-attack. The strategic methods are tried and tested and you don't have to look far in the past for a very good example, as the modest Malaga beat Barcelona 1-0 in Barcelona just last weekend by defending well and making the most of their only chance of the game (that came from a defensive mistake by Barcelona).
Which brings us to why Manchester City's manager, Manuel Pellegrini, deserves the sack at the end of this season. In the first 45 minutes of the game today Pellegrini set his team to play toe-to-toe straight football against Barcelona. Why he did so is up for debate but the strategy was clear from the first couple of minutes and for me his position had all the look of misplaced arrogance: "We're the home team, we're the English Premier League champions, we're going to run this football match, we'll meet you on equal terms and may the best footballing side win", was the proposal of Manchester City in the first 45 minutes of today's Champion's League game. For his own sweet reasons he decided that his Man City was at the same footballing level as Barcelona and should play them on a equal footing, rather than trying the various methods or tactics that exist to play around a superior team.
The result of this strategic decision was that Barcelona wiped the floor with Manchester City in the first half. It took Barcelona a couple of minutes to work out what was going on, but once they'd clicked that City had decided to play a straight, head-to-head footballing quality competition with them it was like watching kids on Christmas morning faced with a tower of gift-wrapped presents. The most talented team in the world were given free rein and City was played off their own very expensive park by Barsa; it wasn't even close.
The second 45 minutes were better for City. They came out with different tactics, scored a goal, rode their luck, Lionel Messi inexplicably missed a penalty (apart from that last minute event he was sensationally good) and it finished 2-1. Those are the parts of football that can be lumped under the general 'luck' category, but ultimately Man City and Manuel Pellegrini got away with a mere one goal defeat because during the break they swallowed their collective pride, recognized their collective footballing inferiority and changed strategy to play around Barcelona.
Barcelona is led by Lionel Messi but it's much more than just Messi, when on form there are no weak links. But rare are the moments when their opposition will let them play the way they can play this team game, when FC Barcelona can show its maximum footballing expression. Manchester City's manager, for 45 minutes this evening, was stupid enough to let them do just that. If he hadn't realized how stupid that was at the break it would have finished 5-0 or 6-0 so at least he's capable of seeing the error of his ways, but when you're paid X millions of dollars to be the cream of the world's football managerial crop you don't make the basic dumbass error Pellegrini made before the start of tonight's match.
This is why it's such a pleasure watching the current Barcelona, the Messi Barsa. Teams that elevate sport to levels that can touch art come once every semi-never, enjoy them while they last.