Barcelona Prove They Are Still a Winning Machine in Champions League Victory

Guillem BalagueFeatured ColumnistFebruary 19, 2014


Manuel Pellegrini will almost certainly be getting a call sooner rather than later from UEFA's disciplinary committee following his tirade over the performance of the Swedish referee during Manchester City's 2-0 loss to Barcelona in their Champions League last-16 first-leg match on Tuesday.

But whatever UEFA says or does to the usually mild-mannered Chilean, nothing will persuade Pellegrini, who is a great fan of English officials and their refereeing style, that match official Jonas Eriksson was up to handling such a big game and is not the sole reason why City now have a mountain to climb if they want to progress further in this year's tournament.

No fine or ban will sway him from a firm belief that it was the visitors who got all the decisions in the match, including the non-awarding of a free kick for what he felt was a foul on Jesus Navas, the subsequent dismissal of Martin Demichelis and an incorrect penalty given from that counter-attack.

His main bone of contention is that in such a tense game, with so much riding on it, the officiating, in his opinion, was not up to standard.

So far, so bad.

What will really land him in hot water, however, is the further assertion that some of Eriksson's decisions in favour of Barcelona were effectively made by way of recompense for those made by the same official against the La Liga side in a Champions League match against AC Milan two seasons ago when he denied the Catalans two penalty claims, per Ian Herbert of The Independent.

Pellegrini's outbursts are, of course, the natural product of frustration when, despite the most thorough preparation for a match generally considered to be a defining moment for you and your side, your plans are blown out of the water by what you believe are situations and personalities outside of your control.

The City manager may just have a point, but the footballing realities of life are perhaps where he should be concentrating his attentions.

City are still two or three players short of being able to challenge in Europe, with a centre-back, a central midfielder and perhaps a different kind of forward on the shopping list.

Meanwhile they are learning, which can be a painful curve in their education.

On the "been there, seen it, done it" front, look no further than Barcelona, who still turn up competitive and experienced, despite not possessing the style, panache and great football of old.

Full-backs don't attack as much as they used to, there are not enough runs behind the defence from midfielders and Lionel Messi makes less explosive runs himself. But they are still superior to City and most teams.

City lacked conviction, the necessary controlled aggression and perhaps showed a little too much respect for their illustrious opponents. This is not how you play Barcelona if you want to beat them. 

Forsaking any great display of an ensemble masterclass, City's guests decided on this occasion to rely on individual genius, in this case that of Andres Iniesta.

It was his magnificent through ball that finally showed the packed Etihad that despite having played a style of football that might have suggested the visitors would be happy to leave the sentencing of the clash to the second leg, a stalemate was the last thing on their minds.

These days, Barcelona may not concentrate all their endeavours on charming the world.

But make no mistake about it: They are a winning machine, and you bet against Tata Martino's men at your peril.