Ewan Macdonald asks if Barcelona are once again on course for an historic double, and if they resemble the last Blaugrana side to do so...
Over-emphasising just how much of a mauling Barcelona dished out in the first half of what ended up a 4-0 win at Camp Nou is difficult. One could strip the thesaurus of superlatives to describe it.
So, we're not going to do that. The fulsome praise can wait. Instead, let's ask the question that is on all of our minds: is this Barcelona side really, really, really, the real deal? Is this the spirit of 2006, finally returned?
Here's my answer: No, it's not.
What makes this Barcelona side what it is cannot be encapsulated in any one word, but the philosophy is clear. It is one of movement. The formation reads 4-3-3 but the pitch says 'attack'. Carles Puyol, out of position, can be found on the edge of the opposition's box. Daniel Alves, up against Franck Ribery, still finds time to play six-yard through balls for vital goals.
It is a whizzing, whirring, smile-raising contraption of a side, but the kicker is that it's one of confidence. Pep Guardiola, sent to the stands for disputing a Lionel Messi booking, has instilled into the side not the ostentatious, self-deluding 'we can do it' posturing of years past but a genuine sense of accomplishment. Thierry Henry, a player derided last season by some for being finished, is rediscovering not just his lust for football but even a turn of pace long since thought to be extinct. Samuel Eto'o, for all his contractual uncertainty, is still banging them away. And Lionel Messi? He's the best in the world.
From front to back, when Barcelona fire on all cylinders, their football sings. It is even more alluring than that of 2006, and it is backed by a belief that, to me, seems to be more genuine and more lasting than that of the Frank Rijkaard era.
If Barcelona do the double this season - and they have a very, very real chance of doing so - it will be with flair and panache that even Ronaldinho would struggle to reach at his prime.
Just ask Bayern.
Ewan Macdonald, Goal.com