Pep Guardiola’s adventures at different powerhouses of world football has turned into somewhat of a video game. You start with a team with a huge budget and the world’s best player, you make them even better, and then you get tired. You move on. To another club with a huge budget. You make them one of the best teams in the world. You get tired. You move on. To another club with a ginormous…
And the story goes on. The Spaniard has barely had time to get his clothes out from his suitcase and into the closet—and City are already at the top of the table in the Premier League. The biggest challenge though, with Guardiola’s somewhat childish handling of the real footballing world is this—how do you beat your former team that you, yourself, made to be, in essence, unbeatable?
Well, in Pep’s case so far, you don’t.
Barcelona have recovered tremendously from the Pep hangover which lasted for roundabout a season or two. So much so, they’re now even more devastating to their opponents and possess, arguably, the best front three the world’s ever seen. We will get to Bayern’s case later, but for now, City, who’ve yet again managed to get themselves in a group with one of the three favorites to win the tournament (they seriously need to double check for any witches lying about the next time a draw is held), face an almost impossible task against the Blaugrana.
It’s true that Celta Vigo have beaten Barcelona; so have the mighty Alavés. So, mathematically speaking, there’s about a 17% chance that Manchester City can down the men in Red and Blue.
But it’s not likely.
Much of it has to do with Pep Guardiola’s own ideals. No one keeps the ball from Barcelona, and possession-freak teams have fared worse against the Blaugrana than those who are comfortable without it. Arsenal, PSG, Manchester United (of the past), and even Man City and Bayern Munich have all struggled mightily. Zinedine Zidane’s a smart man and he’s altered Real Madrid’s style of play to make sure that his team copes without the ball. It is also why Atleti have time and again beaten Barcelona in recent seasons.
You will probably never be as good with the ball—or possess the ball, altogether—as Barcelona. But, you can be better than them when you don’t possess. Which is where this invincible shield of the Blaugrana begins to fall apart.
The MSN do not press the ball high up the pitch on most days. Sergio Busquets’ form is downright atrocious at the moment, and Andres Iniesta is not the once mobile midfielder that he was. Add Gerard Pique, Javier Mascherano, and Jeremy Mathieu’s lack of speed, through balls down the center are already sounding like a bargain.
Of course, escaping the first press will be pivotal, as John Stones will experience hands-on tomorrow. But, the field’s wide open full of possibilities if Guardiola can make his team evolve into a winning machine, rather than a symphony orchestra.