FC Barcelona's 10 Most Mesmerizing Victories Under Pep Guardiola
In May of 2008, club president Joan Laporta made an announcement that changed the course of history at FC Barcelona: then-manager Frank Rijkaard was fired and was to be replaced by Josep Guardiola.
Guardiola had had a memorable playing career at Barcelona and had just managed Barca B side to promotion.
However, seeing as that one season in the reserves was the extent of his managerial experience, there was great concern about his appointment.
Over the past four years, Barcelona has climbed to the pinnacle of world football, reaching such dizzying heights that their greatest competition seems to be historic clubs of the past.
Along the way, of course, there have been some moments better than others and some that have been just downright glorious.
This is a countdown that takes these moments, pares them down, and arrives at FC Barcelona's ten most mesmerizing match victories under Pep.
10. Barcelona vs. Santos: 2011 Club World Cup Final
In a match that was meant to determine the best club in the world, Barcelona was supposed to have an interesting match with Santos and their Brazilian wunderkind Neymar.
Instead, they just ran rampant.
The total domination Barca asserted over the Brazilians was incredible.
By the end, Barcelona boasted a 71-percent possession rate, more than double the shots and the shots on goal of their opponents, and, most importantly, a 4-0 drubbing on the score sheet.
It may have been the most thorough beating in Club World Cup history (since they switched to single matches, that is), but it easily could have been even more.
Need proof? Take a look at the highlights above.
9. Barcelona vs. Bayern Munich: 2008/09 Champions League Quarterfinals
Entering the quarter-finals of the 2008-09 Champions League, the most hotly-anticipated tie was probably that of Barcelona vs. Bayern Munich.
The two clubs had established themselves as European giants, yet hadn't met in some ten years.
Further, with Barca's apparent class and Bayern's recent form (they had dismantled Sporting CP in the Round of 16 by a 12-1 aggregate), it seemed set up for a close encounter.
However, in the first leg at the Camp Nou, Barca quickly dispelled those notions.
In one of the first of his Champions League masterclass performances, Lionel Messi scored and set up an Eto'o goal within the first quarter of an hour.
By half-time, Barca had all but booked their place in the semi-finals with another Messi goal and one from Thierry Henry.
The 4-0 scoreline held up through the second half.
That first half will go down as one of the finest in Barcelona history.
8. Barcelona vs. Estudiantes: 2009 Club World Cup Final
Who ever said that no one cares about the Club World Cup?
Just watch the outpouring of emotions from the Barcelona players and coaches in this final to see how incorrect that notion is.
After falling at the final hurdle three years earlier, Barca seemed on their way to another disappointment at the hands of Argentine club Estudiantes when Mauro Boselli scored in the 37th minute.
Despite owning 64 percent of ball possession and creating many more chances than their opponents, Barca seemed destined to fall as the end of the match neared.
Finally, in the 89th minute, the possession and chance creation paid off as Pedro equalized, sending the match into extra time.
There, in the 110th minute, Messi scored a beautiful headed goal to hand Barca their first Club World Cup championship.
Need more proof of how much this victory meant to some? Check out Pep sobbing as his side was accepting the trophy.
7. Real Madrid vs Barcelona: 2008/09 La Liga Clasico
With only five matches to go in the 2008-09 La Liga season, Real Madrid had been on an incredible run: they had gone 19 matches unbeaten, 18 of which were victories, and closed the gap on Barcelona's lead to 4 points.
This set the stage for an epic El Clasico: Barcelona, the last side to have defeated Madrid in the league, traveled to red-hot Madrid's Santiago Bernabeu, where a loss would re-ignite the title race.
The match started with a bang, as a Sergio Ramos cross found Gonzalo Higuain for a 14th-minute goal that set the stadium abuzz.
However, these good feelings were quickly extinguished by the visitors.
Thierry Henry equalized only four minutes later, and by half-time Messi and Puyol made it 3-1 Barca.
Madrid started the second half well again, as Ramos cut the lead to 3-2 in the 56th minute.
However, Henry responded in only two minutes this time and was followed by Messi and Pique in the closing stages of the match.
While any 6-2 victory over your most bitter rivals is noteworthy, this one had to have felt even better: it allowed Barca to celebrate an almost-assured La Liga title in the home of Madrid and was so psychologically debilitating that Madrid went on to lose all of their final four matches.
Perhaps Madrid was weak that year, but that does not make a situation like this taste less sweet.
6. Barcelona vs. Arsenal: 2009/10 Champions League Quarterfinals
This may not be No. 1 on this list for most mesmerizing performances by Barcelona, but put this down as the most mesmerizing individual effort that you will see.
When Barca and Arsenal were drawn together for the Champions League Quarter-Finals, most saw the Spanish side as the clear favorites.
After Arsenal had to come back from two down to salvage a 2-2 draw in London, most thought that the two away goals by Barca would be enough.
It was Nicklas Bendtner's goal in the 18th minute of the second-leg match at the Camp Nou that made people finally sit up and take notice.
For the first time in the tie, Arsenal had the advantage and were actually only 72 minutes from knocking the defending champions out of the competition.
However, this also may have served to wake up Messi.
Just a few minutes later, the little Argentine returned Barca's advantage on away goals with a stunning strike.
By half-time, he had a hat-trick of beautifully-taken goals that seemed to put the tie out of reach.
In the final moments, he added another.
It was a four-goal masterpiece, and all after his side was in trouble.
Most any club who falls behind in a Champions League second leg might panic; as for Barca, they thrived.
5. Real Madrid vs. Barcelona: 2011 Champions League Semi-Final
In last year's Champions League semi-final, a few familiar foes awaited Barcelona.
Mourinho, last year the manager of the Inter Milan side that eliminated them from the Champions League, brought his Real Madrid side, the club that is their bitter rivals.
After heated confrontations in the first few matches of the season, this tie seemed set up for an incredible couple of encounters.
In the first leg, Messi's two goals at the Santiago Bernabeu effectively ended the tie, booking Barca a trip to Wembley and the final.
Each goal was a brilliant finish by Messi.
A victory over one's biggest rivals at their home on one of the biggest stages in the sport is quite the great moment.
However, we must acknowledge the elephant in the room for this match: Pepe's red card.
In the 61st minute of what was until then a tight affair, Madrid's Pepe challenged Dani Alves for a ball and received a red card for his troubles.
It was not until after this, when Madrid were down a man, that Barca exerted their dominance and scored both goals.
Upon further review, the foul was a bit harsh.
If Pepe did not get the ball and got Alves's leg, I'd have said yellow but would have been okay with red.
However, Pepe clearly gets the ball while Alves goes down from the force of their two feet simultaneously hitting the ball.
In the end, it was a harsh yellow, let alone red.
Perhaps Pepe's reputation preceded him on this occasion.
4. Barcelona vs. Manchester United: 2011 Champions League Final
In last year's Champions League final, Barcelona had a tame (by their standards) 63 percent of possession and took almost five times as many shots as their opponents, Manchester United.
Despite a beautiful goal by Wayne Rooney allowing United to draw level at 1-1 at half-time, Barca were able to thoroughly dominate the second half.
After three brilliant goals, Barca were able to conquer Europe with a 3-1 victory.
Perhaps the most mesmerizing part of their victory, however, was their defending. After all, Rooney's goal was United's only shot on target for the entire match.
3. Barcelona vs. Manchester United: 2009 Champions League Final
In his first season on the job, Pep delivered the highest trophy in the sport to his beloved club.
In the 2009 Champions League final in Rome, Barcelona took on defending champions Manchester United, who had somewhat dominated their way to the final with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez and Wayne Rooney leading the way.
However, inside ten minutes, Barcelona took the lead through a Samuel Eto'o strike underneath of Edwin van der Sar.
An hour later, it was Lionel Messi putting the match out of reach with a fantastic header.
Statistically, this was not the greatest match Barcelona have played under Pep.
After all, they only had 51 percent of possession (which is pretty much a loss under Guardiola) and were out-shot by United.
However, their shots were much more accurate and their finishing much more clinical.
The victory also made Barca the first Spanish side to ever win the treble, in that they won La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League in the same year.
2. Barcelona vs. Real Madrid: 2010/11 La Liga
The appointment of Jose Mourinho as Real Madrid manager made the hated rivals ever more hated and threatening.
The first encounter between Barca and the new Madrid was slated to occur in a La Liga encounter in late November.
By that point in the season, Madrid had accrued a lead in the league and had gone unbeaten in all competitions.
Hence, as almost no one had any idea what to expect, this was one of the most anticipated El Clasico encounters in years.
However, the match didn't come close to living up to expectations.
Well, at least from a neutral standpoint; for Barca supporters, it was one of the greatest days of football ever.
From the moment the match kicked off, it was clear who was the better side.
Madrid's squad of superstars seemed taken very far off-guard by Barca's style and quickly became proverbial deer in the headlights.
Within ten minutes, Xavi handed Barca the lead, and less than ten minutes later Pedro doubled that lead.
Soon after half-time, Villa scored a double of his own within three minutes.
Jeffren capped off the match with a fifth at the death.
By the end, Barca boasted 66-percent possession and tripled Madrid in both shots and shots on target.
The most amazing aspect of the match, though, was Barca's finishing.
Against the greatest keeper in the world, they turned five goals in on six shots.
Perhaps the Madrid defense were slightly at fault at points, but the Barca attack was undeniable on this day.
This will probably go down as the proudest day for Barca supporters.
1. Barcelona vs. Chelsea: 2008/09 Champions League Semi-Finals
The 5-0 victory over Madrid may be the greatest victory in the eyes of Barca supporters, but neutrals will remember their victory over Chelsea in the Champions League semi-final as the most incredible.
After Chelsea pushed Barca to a 0-0 result at the Camp Nou, the stage was set for an enthralling second leg at Stamford Bridge.
In the ninth minute, Chelsea was given the lead by an incredible strike by Michael Essien.
Throughout the rest of the match, it was a back-and-forth affair.
Barca owned much of the possession, ending with a 71-percent edge, but allowed Chelsea to counter-attack on many occasions.
In the 66th minute, Eric Abidal picked up a red card that seemed to end all hope for the Catalans.
Entering the final moments of the match, each side had had 13 shots.
However, Barca's 14th, a strike from Andres Iniesta, proved to be the difference-maker.
Messi dribbled in the box and picked out Iniesta, square on the edge of the box.
The Spaniard unleashed a curling strike with the outside of his right foot that curled away from Petr Cech and into the top corner of the net.
The celebrations of the Barca players and bench, including Pep's sprint down the touchline, is enough to bring chills.
To add to the glory in the goal, it was Barca's only shot on goal in the entire match, but it drew them level and sent them to the final by virtue of away goals.
Further, it foreshadowed another such game-winner by Iniesta in his World Cup winner for Spain the next year.
Now, for all you Chelsea supporters out there, I'll ask the question: should Barca have even been in this position?
Well, that's up for debate, as numerous legitimate shouts for penalties were turned down by the referee.
In the end, though, that is down to the referee.
Barca made the most of their situation and, in doing so, pulled off one of the most mesmerizing finishes in club football history.