Are Barcelona Divers?

Two days ahead of the Champions League final and the ‘Barcelona Diving’ debate was brought up again on Keys and Gray’s show on Talksport today.

I know what happened in the 1st leg of the Champions League semi-final wasn’t great from Barca, but I have watched them a hell of a lot over the last few years and I have to say that apart from a few isolated incidents, I don’t believe Barcelona are divers.

That said, I do believe Barcelona are capable of employing the ‘Diving’ tactics when/if they need too. But it’s only usually when they believe they have a good case to do so. It may be a bit of a contradiction, but maybe they are just occasional divers.

For me, what happened a few weeks ago was one of those occasions and was a deliberate Barca tactic. They knew that Madrid where planning to play rough, they knew Mourinho would try and turn it into a physical contest and ruffle Barcelona by kicking lumps out of them.

I’ve now come to the conclusion that Pep Guardiola knew what was coming and instructed his players to fight fire with fire by making sure the referee was well aware of what was going on – by over doing it when on the receiving end of an over physical tackle.

Guardiola seen Mourinho and his dirty tactics coming and played dirty himself, the Barca manager won the battle of the underhand tactics. In short Guardiola outcoached Mourinho.

Those who remember Mourinho’s Porto side may well also think serves him right, that he got shot with his own gun. When it comes to diving, I’m yet to see a team that could compete with his Porto side.

Basically I don’t believe Barcelona to be divers. Yes, they know how to play the game when they need too – and they needed too against Real that night.

They may well need to on Saturday against Manchester United. If they come under pressure from United, either by tough tackling or from good football, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them use the tactic again. But I don’t believe they are serial offenders.

The outbreak of football in Spain

After what has been an embarrassing week for football in Spain with their top 2 clubs having a school ground spat, some football actually broke out at the Nou Camp tonight.

That’s not to say that the allegations of racism and the behaviour in general is as trivial as a school ground spat, as it’s not. The racism issue is something that UEFA, the Spanish FA and Barcelona have to take seriously, something I can’t honestly say UEFA have a strong history of doing.

Onto the football now and I thought that it wasn’t a bad game overall. Another great Barcelona goal put the tie to bed, but not before Gonzalo Higuain’s goal was ruled out.

Should it have been ruled out or not? It’s a hard one to call, but there was barely a complaint from the Madrid players.

Ronaldo did trip Javier Mascherano, but I suppose in a way it was harsh to rule it out, but if it had been allowed to stand, what would we all be saying?

I thought on the whole the referee did well, he tried his best to keep the game flowing and 22 men on the pitch. Real benefited most from this, as on another night Ricardo Carvalho certainly would have walked before half time for fouls on Messi alone.

Xavi Alonso and Adebayor were also lucky not to see red in the 2nd half, if this is the usual standard of tackles by Madrid players, then no wonder they can’t finish an El Classico game with 11 men – what the hell is Mourinho complaining about?

Whether it is right or wrong for a referee to try and keep 22 players on the pitch is open to debate, personally I believe it is supposed to be an entertainment sport and we don’t want games being ruined by referees going 100% to the rule book and not being able to show some discretion.

Ultimately I think it was Mourinho’s tactics in the 1st leg that cost his side. For Real Madrid to put 11 men behind the ball at home and play for a 0-0 is unforgivable, it shows vulnerability in Mourinho, he is clearly scarred by the 5-0 drubbing earlier this season.

Real showed they could compete tonight, ok, so Barcelona dominated possesion, but they always do. The facts are that Barcelona have the luckiest bloke in the world in goal – his CV certainly doesn’t reflect his ability as a goalkeeper, Mascherano at centre-back and not a great defence in general. With these glaring weaknesses if Real had a go, who knows what might have happened?

At least they didn’t get stuffed tonight, after Mourinho’s antics over the last 7-10 days I would imagine some high up people at Real might not be too impressed with the clubs image getting dragged through the mire.

A good thrashing tonight could have hastened Jose’s exit and probably meant a return to the Premier league – please no, keep him in Madrid, or if not, then anywhere but back in England.

The lucks still with Jose

Mixed feelings from Inter Milan’s 3-1 win over Barcelona tonight. On one hand Inter played really well and exposed Barcelona’s defensive frailties. One the other, it would be fair to say that Inter had the better of some of the referee’s decisions.

In truth, (and as much as I hate to admit it, as I’m no Mourinho fan) Milan were exceptional tonight and fully deserved their win. They could easily have scored two or three more, and Mourinho got his tactics spot on as he nullified Messi by cutting off his supply line from Xavi.

But Milan’s good fortune at the San Siro continued on from the Chelsea game. First, Milito headed in Sneijder’s abysmal headed attempt on goal that was going well wide, from an offside position.

The luck then continued in the last 10 minutes with two Barca penalty appeals going in Inter’s favour.

Wesley Sneijder made a tackle on Alves that was a clear penalty, but only resulted in a booking for Alves for diving. Then Lucio also got lucky after barging Pique out of the way in the penalty area, not a definate penalty, but I’ve seen them given for less.

All this after a blatent penalty was turned down in the Chelsea game at the San Siro in the last 16, an incident that surely turned the tie in Inter’s favour.

It reminds me of the year Mourinho won the competition with Porto and the onside goal that was disallowed at Old Trafford from Paul Scholes. It’s as if his name is on the trophy already.

In a further twist of good fortune for Mourinho, Barcelona had to make a 20 hour coach journey to Milan due to the Icelandic volcano and the ‘flight ban’. It was refreshing though to hear Pep Guardiola not blame the defeat on the journey.

I do hope Barca can turn this tie around, although I think they will have their work cut out next week. Imagine the hype surrounding Mourinho if he can knock out the (supposed) best side in the world. Sky Sports will be able to carry on with their sickening love in of him, and the talk of him returning to the Premier League will reach fever pitch. It would be unbearable.

Wenger no fan of La Liga

Arsene Wenger’s veiled threat to Cesc Fabregas that going to Barcelona would be a backwards step, will surely not be too well recieved in Catalunya.

Wenger said that the Spanish league isn’t competitive as the the 3rd place team is 24 points behind (the leaders). Although he did go on to admit that they “have two good teams”, which was big of him, considering one of those “good teams” recently made his side look very average.

Whatever the strengths or weaknesses of La Liga, it looks like it has it’s appeal to Cesc Fabregas. After all Barcelona is his home City and his former team so why wouldn’t he want to play for them, and who could blame him.

Fabregas is still only a young man (22), and Barcelona have a young side who look set to dominate world football for a long time to come, imagine the success he could have with them.

Couple that with the lack of success at the Emirates Stadium and it’s not hard to see why Wenger is clearly rattled. For Wenger to make such remarks says to me that he is worried that Fabregas wants a move back home.

Could this be the catalyst to make Wenger at last invest in his team? Who knows. It is admirable the way he gives youth a chance and promotes players from within. But at the same time the professional footballer is a selfish beast and Fabregas will know that he can’t go on waiting forever for Wenger’s youth policy to deliver a title.

To insult La Liga might not endear him to Fabregas much either, it looks the kind of style of football that would suit him.

It is arguable that the technical side of football in Spain is far superior to England. As it also said that the Premier League is far more exciting and competitive.

Whatever the truth of those arguments, if Wenger wants to keep Fabregas I would imagine he will need to prove it to him this summer in the transfer market.