“Of course by history Barcelona is the favorite, but this Barcelona, this season, is showing that it is not the same as in previous years,” the Chelsea boss claimed to ITV when previewing the round of 16 fixture. “Of course, they have Messi - he is special - and they have more than him. But I think this is the worst Barcelona of many, many years.”
|MATCH FACTS | City 0-2 Barca
Pellegrini had his side line up in a similar manner to many managers who faced Barca before him, reinforcing his numbers off the ball to the detriment of quantity in attack. And, like a large percentage of coaches in recent years, his reward was defeat.
Lionel Messi’s penalty after he’d been pulled down by last man Martin Demichelis threatened to leave City with a big enough task at the Camp Nou, but Dani Alves’ 90th-minute clincher leaves the Premier League side with the slenderest of hopes of qualifying for the quarterfinals.
We should have expected nothing else, for the truth is that little has changed with Barca. It may well not be the all-conquering outfit of 2009 or 2011, but it remains a side few know how to beat.
It still dominates possession with significant ease, its quality on the ball remains a sight to behold, and as a result there will always be the chance that teams will get picked off. If you attack Barca, it will make the most of the space, but if you sit back it will simply pass around you and wait for its opportunity.
Messi’s surge for the game-changing penalty and red card could have come from almost any game in the last six years. So too the way that Barca went about quietly seeing the match out before its attack at the jugular in the final minute.
If Barcelona proved with its semifinal defeat to Bayern Munich last season that it is not what they once were, it has spent the entire 2013-14 campaign illustrating that reviews such as Mourinho’s couldn’t be wider of the mark. Tonight’s victory was its first on the road in a Champions League knockout match since February 2012, suggesting the team is are getting better, if anything.
The Blaugrana are now top of La Liga, into the Copa del Rey final and well on the way to a Champions League quarterfinal. If this is Barca at its worst, then the rest of Europe has a lot to worry about.