Wednesday, April 24, 2013

(Sports) Bayern Munich V Barcelona: Why Bayern's 4-0 mauling of Barcelona should shock no one

There is much in the sporting world that has, does and will shock you but Barcelona's heavy  defeat at the hands of German champions Bayern Munich should not even surprise you.

Barcelona have always been poor without the ball even at the apex of the Guardiola era when Barcelona looked nearly impossible to beat. They have always been susceptible to a side who could somehow rein in the threat of Lionel Messi (a player Barcelona rely on way too much for a side full of world class players) and break quickly with pace down the sides of the park, a feat Bayern Munich executed ruthlessly.

Bayern Munich did a great job at keep the constant threat of a classic piece of Messi magic however,the Barcelona forward looked out of sorts for much of the match and looks notably  below normal match fitness. Bayern Munich followed the same blueprint Real Madrid have been using to beat the Catalan giants involving a combination of swift counter attacks and dogged defending . This game plan will always work against Barcelona as their strengths lie on being on the ball and when their rhythm on it is disturbed slightly or fails to get going outright , things can go awry very quickly for a team many were calling one of the greatest teams in football history. 

Barcelona used to be able to stop teams on the counter by pressing the man on ball further up the field in packs in order to win it back then use their superior passing ability to cut the opposing side defense to pieces but since maybe the last year or so, Barca have stopped pressing the man on the ball when they lost the ball leaving them vulnerable to sides like Bayern and Real Madrid who can counter and capitalize quickly on the gulfs of space provided by Barcelona over-adventurous full backs.

While their difficulties off the ball are clear for all to see, what has been clear to more careful observers of the Catalans is the absence of the trademark zip and invention in their passing , particularly against stiff domestic or European opposition.  Often this season Barcelona have been pedestrian in pace and labored in execution of their normally fantastic buildup play and have resorted to playing in front of sides frustrating Barca fans and neutrals (still in awe of the Barcelona of old) alike.  

In sum, despite Barcelona's 4-0 mauling at the hands of Bayern Munich,  they are still a great side and any prediction of their decline in light of this result would be made in haste rather than cool judgement. However, such a result has been on the books for at least a year as Barcelona have failed miserably to solve their long standing problem of defending off the ball and notably, struggling to produce the awe inducing zip and invention on the ball that the Catalans have made their own.

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