A sideways look at Spanish football
Thursday morning presented something of a tricky balancing act for the Catalan press, in the wake of Barcelona’s first Champions League defeat this season, and indeed the first on the road in the competition’s group stages since October 2006. How to simultaneously act not that bothered by the result, while also being really quite bothered by the result. Fortunately, they have had a bit of practice in that regard down the years...
As far as their hopes of progression are concerned, the defeat to Celtic is a mere bizzy, buzzy wasp of inconvenience, most likely forcing Tito Vilanova to continue fielding proper players for the final two matches - away at Spartak Moscow and home to Benfica - in order to ensure top spot. There’s no danger whatsoever of Barça not qualifying for the knock-out stages, a concern that Real Madrid may have at the back of their minds. However, it underlines the “Chelsea Syndrome” of the team and the eternal problem of a lack of plan ‘B’.
Sport’s front page laments a lack of “luck and precision” in Glasgow, as well the Barça squad’s Hobbit-like nature. “If you don’t have tall players then you will suffer from set pieces,” sniffs the match report on Celtic’s first strike, which saw wee Jordi Alba failing to leap five feet into the air to cover the particularly un-wee Victor Wanyama. Questioned on this familiar topic, Tito Vilanova responded that “if we signed taller players we wouldn’t play so well.”
Aside from that gripe, the newspaper trotted out the statistics to prove that Barcelona should have won, with the visitors having 75% possession and 13 shots on target, figures that dwarf those of Celtic - no pun intended. “If there are few games where losing doesn’t matter, this was one of those,” wrote Josep Maria Casanovas, who suggests helpfully that the players “turn the page, but learn the lesson.”
Joan Poquí, writing in Mundo Deportivo, seems to have had a fine time at a stadium where supporters make lots of noise and seem enthusiastic about their team, something unfamiliar at the homes of Spain’s big two. “It’s not a legend: the stadium literally shakes,” he gushes.
In what was a fairly mad week of Champions League football in Spain, the least reliable la Liga side in the competition, Valencia, were the only Spanish side of the four taking part to come away with a victory. Although, to be fair, the east coast club had by far the easiest tie, with the visit of BATE from Belarus. However, Valencia did try to get into the spirit of things in the entertainment stakes by taking a 3-0 lead and then nearly throwing it away to be hauled back to 3-2, before Sofiane Feghouli scored his second of the night to seal the three points.
Despite that win, Valencia still have a fair amount of work to do, unlike Málaga, who's draw in their match with Milan was enough to make sure that the southern side were the only Spanish team who'll be able to take a siesta through the last two Champions League rounds.
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