Barcelona losing to Real Madrid in the Clasico for the first time (in La Liga) under Pep Guardiola shouldn’t be so shocking because Real Madrid are a great team, with one super player, Cristiano Ronaldo, and a great head coach, Jose Mourinho, controversial as he may be. Still, Messi and co. arrive at the Semi Final second leg against Chelsea in a somewhat unfamiliar situation.
Since Guardiola took over in 2008, only once have Barcelona lost a must win game, or at least not won in the desired result. In the 2010 Champions League Semi Final against Inter, after being stunned in the first leg at the San Siro 3-1, Barcelona were able to come up with a 1-0 win against 10 Inter men and one joyful Mourinho.
Besides that? Two champions league titles and six Clasico wins, home and away, until last Saturday. Don’t put the Copa Del Rey in the same group of importance as these matches. A manager at these clubs isn’t paid to bring home the national cup.
The excuses regarding Barcelona’s failure that spring against Inter have been used to death. Barcelona were fatigued because they couldn’t fly (ash cloud) to Italy, Mourinho played anti-football. You know the drill. It’s hard accepting a loss when you’re so used to winning, when you start believing you’re actually entitled to these titles and trophies.
Chelsea’s must win situations in recent years, under different managers, have been slightly different. Except for winning the title in 2010 under Carlo Ancelotti, when Chelsea completed the double over Manchester United in the league and English double with the FA Cup, you can say they’ve failed the Must-Win scenarios. Their lack of a Champions League trophy, something that quite stings Roman Abramovich’s eyes and ego, is the best proof.
This year? Roberto Di Matteo has been about stabilizing the situation after the Andre Villas Boas trauma. He won at home against Napoli after a demoralizing 3-1 defeat in Italy and on certain days and moments, has brought back the old Chelsea – enthusiastic and aggressive. Far from eye pleasing, but it’s this Chelsea that got titles, got the job done. Those foundations, and most of the titles, were laid and won by Jose Mourinho. Always hovering in the background, involved, directly or not.
This is no must win for Chelsea. This is a must pass, although the disappointment among Stamford Bridge faithful would be minuscule compared to the blow Barcelona fans will suffer if their all conquering team fails once again, at home, in the space of 72 hours. If Real Madrid winning there was a cause for depression and evoked a feeling of the nearing end to an incredible era, there will be no stopping it if Chelsea pull off the huge upset.
In terms of football, Chelsea can’t exactly emulate what Real Madrid did on Saturday. They don’t have the talent up front – speed and skill, to build on such a counter attacking style. Ramires finding Drogba was one of the few times they actually crossed the halfway line with the ball. It shouldn’t be any different this time around, and luck doesn’t save teams from conceding too often. One night of enjoying it is probably the limit.
If Guardiola learns from his mistakes against Real Madrid and is able to lift his players from the gloom and doom of finally coping with the loss of the La Liga title and the Clasico, there can only be one outcome. If Chelsea shock early and poach another goal? Hard to imagine it, but no one imagined Barcelona losing two huge matches in a row.