The dream of an all Spanish Champions League final ended last night with Real Madrid’s elimination from the competition by 4 goals to 3 on aggregate to Borussia Dortmund. Real Madrid had a good opening 15 minute spell and an heroic last 8 minutes that would have seen them through with one more goal. Alas it wasn’t to be and apart from those short spells at either end of last night’s 90 minutes, Dortmund were the better side over the two legs and deserved to go through.
F.C. Barcelona will face an even harder task this evening in the 2nd leg of their semi final against the newly crowned German champions, Bayern Munich. The first leg at the Allianz Arena, just over a week ago, ended with a 4-0 humiliation of the Catalans.
There were grumbles at the time concerning the first three goals. Many Catalan commentators believed that Dante fouled Dani Alves when rising above him to head across goal for Thomas Müller’s opener. Mario Gómez appeared to be in an offside position when he scored the second and there was a clear foul by Müller on Jordi Alba in the build up to the 3rd by Arjen Robben.
However, putting those issues aside, Bayern Münich were simply the far better side on the night and thoroughly deserved their victory over an out of sorts and punchless Barça. There had been injury concerns prior to the match surrounding Lionel Messi and Sergio Busquets, Messi had strained a hamstring in Paris in the previous round and Busquets had a pelvic problem.
Both were risked from the start, but were quite clearly short of match fitness and should have been on the bench at best. It was a risk that badly backfired on the Barcelona coaching staff and there was only one substitution, Pedro went off for Villa, too late in the game to make any difference.
The Germans had looked the hungrier of the two outfits and were quicker to close down every ball and strong in the tackle, they were not wasteful when in possession, traits normally associated with the all conquering Barça of the Guardiola era.
The blaugrana were sent home with their tails firmly between their legs and news stories of a shift in power on the continent were splashed across all the main sports news headlines around the world. Madrid’s defeat the following evening only added fuel to the fire that was burning through the Spanish game.
What had happened to Barça, had they gone from being the best in the world to being destroyed so emphatically overnight? It is no secret that the squad are physically and mentally drained. This is usually the stage of the season when they peak, the crunch time when the titles are decided and the trophies handed out to the victors.
Minds are being cast back to the 2nd leg of the last 16 tie against AC Milan at the Camp Nou. The Italians had inflicted a similar humbling upon the Catalan favourites at the San Siro and believed they would defend the lead in Barcelona and progress to the quarter finals.
Barça had hit a dip in form in the league and had been dumped out of the Copa del Rey at home by fierce rivals Real Madrid. However, for the 2nd leg, they seemed to find the spirit to produce their best performance of the season and dispatched the Italians by a 4-0 scoreline.
A similar result would take tonight’s tie to extra time and Messi in particular will be expected to perform. But, Bayern Munich are a much tougher prospect and will attempt to score at the Camp Nou. The match will be a sell out and a similar mosaic to the one produced before the Milan match will greet the players as they take to the field.
Can Barça find one more epic performance to take them through to the final at Wembley Stadium, it is unlikely but not impossible.