Wanted: Convincing Barca comeback

Posted by Francesc Tomas

Let's be honest. Nobody in their right mind would bet against Bayern Munich qualifying for the Champions League final after witnessing their impressive 4-0 demolition of Barcelona in the away leg of the semifinals.

The way in which the Bundesliga champions dominated all facets of the initial clash between two of the most renowned clubs in world football impressed not only their devoted Bavarian fans, but also a large number of neutrals around the world and, to be perfectly honest, even some Catalan supporters.

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Strength, stamina, effectiveness, aggression, clarity of ideas, confidence, intelligence, appetite for glory... Die Roten managed to display a huge number of adjectives which, combined, can be summarized into one: superb.

On the other hand, Barcelona were only capable of displaying a weakened version of their former selves. With the strength of their ideal 11 hindered by the absence of spiritual leader Carles Puyol and the debatable inclusion of a partially recovered Lionel Messi, the Catalans failed to fulfil their self-imposed expectations.

The mental and physical fatigue carried by key players such as Gerard Pique, Cesc Fabregas or Sergio Busquets (who won't play Wednesday because of a groin injury) at this stage of the season; the way in which the referee allowed a couple of illegal goals or Tito Vilanova's inability to use substitutions to change the direction of the game didn't help either, but ultimately the inexcusable truth is that Bayern were better than Barcelona when it mattered.

Despite the fact that the strength and depth of the Bavarian squad was obvious, most Cules anticipated an even contest which, unfortunately, wasn't to be. I must admit that, as a born Catalan who has religiously supported the team since birth, such a negative result was surprisingly unexpected and, perhaps most important, immensely painful.

A night to forget or, looking at the situation from a more constructive point of view, a night to remember and look back at in order to identify areas to improve on.

Fortunately, having had a long, challenging week to look back at the events at the Allianz Arena has somehow helped me put things into perspective. While the Blaugranas have enjoyed an incredible amount of success in recent years (and, more broadly speaking, since the early 1990s thanks to the implementation of the Johan Cruyff philosophy), the club was never able to consistently challenge for major European trophies -- not this regularly anyway.

Fact: Barcelona has won four Champions Leagues and 21 domestic leagues in 113 years of history. In other words: Generally speaking, the Catalans have won the biggest trophy in European football once every 28 years; La Liga once every five seasons.

Please note that I'm certainly not trying to downplay the importance of the current semifinals or the severity of the defeat in Germany but simply trying to throw in a bit of historical perspective. The current Barcelona may not be totally perfect at this moment in time but, despite temporary weaknesses, Cules who are witnessing their team consistently challenging for major trophies are privileged, fortunate to be able to experience their club competing at this level.

Having said all of the above, it is undeniable that winning is everything in modern football, evidenced by the number of self-proclaimed Cules who wasted no time at all to rubbish virtually every single player who took part in the away match against Bayern. True, some Blaugranas underperformed alarmingly, but that doesn't mean they need to be instantly sold, sacked or forced into early retirement.

Barcelona were not that unbelievably great when they were winning and, equally, are certainly not to be rubbished beyond reason after a short string of poor results.

The current generation of players has given Catalunya so much that, whether fans feel changes are needed or not, a considerable degree of respect and gratefulness must underpin every opinion about their performance.

I feel the club should focus on signing a couple of quality players who would instantly boost the first 11 in the summer transfer window: A reliable, taller, experienced central defender and a fresher second attacking reference upfront, which would free some pressure of the omnipresent Messi. A subtle evolution, not a revolution, is needed.

Anyway, back to the crucial game against Bayern Munich which, believe it or not, is just around the corner.

While the odds of the Blaugrana qualifying are unquestionably slim, it would make no sense for the soon-to-be Spanish champions to give up without a remarkable fight.

If Barcelona can score a couple of goals before the halftime break in front of their adoring 90,000-strong home crowd, the final outcome of the tie would become unpredictable enough to, at least, make some of the Bavarian fans that little bit more eager to hear the final whistle.

The ideal lineup considering the current absences due to injuries and recent performances when selected would be: Victor Valdes; Dani Alves, Pique, Marc Bartra, Adriano; Alex Song (in for Busquets), Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta; Cristian Tello, Messi, Alexis Sanchez. I would then bring on David Villa, Fabregas or Pedro Rodriguez around the 65-minute mark in case more goals were needed.

Barcelona should simply initially look for a home win and then, if possible, gradually attempt the legendary comeback. Fielding a team full of attackers could prove suicidal and ruin the team's chances at any given time, so the one-step-at-a-time approach seems much more reasonable.

One thing is clear though: Whatever happens, I will continue to support my players, my team, my colours once the tie is over.

May the best team win.

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