Monday, April 23, 2012

The high expectations of Barca

There are certain expectations for Pep Guardiola and Barcelona that no other club in the world faces.  Not only to win each and every match, but to do so with an artistic standard that is unmatched by any other club.

J Hutcherson of US Soccer Players writes of the potentially unfair expectations placed on Barca.

You have to feel for opponents of Barcelona. No matter what they do over the course of a game, win or lose it's still going to be about Barca. Barca, Barca, Barca, the team that can't simply have a bad game or a misplay that turns their regular 90 minutes of brilliance into an obvious reason for losing. Nope, not this season at least. For now, it's Barcelona determining the story.

We have two fresh examples of how this works. In the first, the temptation is to make too much about what Chelsea didn't do in the opening leg of their Champions League semifinal series. In the second, it's the same temptation directed at a different goal: Real Madrid playing a game that a different official might've rewarded with a sending off or two. And at the Nou Camp!

This isn't how it's done in the contemporary world of European soccer. Barcelona is expected to string together pass after pass while the other team tries to figure out which player to chase. Opportunities present themselves, Barcelona take advantage, and we all finish our day marveling at what the greatest team in the world can do.

When it doesn't work out that way, impugning the wonder that is mighty Barcelona makes no sense. Well, at least for the neutral. The English media isn't exactly neutral when the one remaining English club is taking a lead into game two of the semifinals. Chelsea were brilliant, doing exactly what they needed to do, and anything else that makes them the clear winner. Fortunately, they were. Barcelona played a lousy game in London, expecting their standard set of moves to work, for the regular options to present themselves, and to win the game.

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