Something odd was happening before Barcelona faced AC Milan on Tuesday—people were starting to doubt Barca.
After losing the first leg to the Italian side, 2-0, and dropping two matches to Real Madrid in the past three weeks—one in league play and the other in the semifinal of the Copa del Rey—suddenly, the notion that teams had Barca figured out was making the rounds.
Barcelona certainly proved that any reports of their demise were greatly exaggerated, however, and proved they are still the team to beat in the Champions League after crushing AC Milan, 4-0, to move on to the Champions League quarterfinals.
I suppose you could argue that Barca had looked vulnerable leading up to this game. Eric Wynalda of FOX Soccer certainly did:
"People have figured out how to beat Barcelona." - Eric Wynalda— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) March 12, 2013
But sometimes great teams like Barcelona become victims of their own success. We become so accustomed to them winning every time they step on a pitch, we overreact when they endure a rough patch.
But let's look at the teams Barca lost to in the past month.
- AC Milan in Milan, in a game where Barca was probably unlucky to not score at least one goal.
- Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey, a tournament that meant far more to Los Blancos than to Barca, since Real Madrid's La Liga title hopes are nonexistent this year.
- Real Madrid in Madrid in league play.
If those losses were spread out across the season, nobody would have blinked. Instead, they happened over the course of a few weeks, and suddenly the mighty Catalans were vulnerable.
Except they aren't, as it turns out.
Barcelona didn't just beat AC Milan, they treated them like an MLS team.
We now know that six teams are through to the quarterfinals—Barcelona, Real Madrid, Galatasaray, Juventus, PSG and Borussia Dortmund—and another team, Bayern Munich, is likely to advance this afternoon.
Of those teams, which would you favor over Barca? Sure, Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich, Juventus and PSG are all excellent teams, but are you willing to predict they will beat the Catalans?
Barcelona should be the favorite to win this year's Champions League.
Not when Lionel Messi is the most dominant athlete on the planet. Not when Barcelona is the deepest team on the planet. Not when this team has just two losses in La Liga play this season and just put four goals on AC Milan in an utter beatdown.
Whatever doubts you had, well, you can put them to rest. Barcelona is once again the team to beat in the Champions League.
And don't you forget it.