Premature Coronation of the Bundesliga….

In the space of six weeks FC Barcelona have twice faced glee-filled suggestions of a collapse so monumental in proportions as to draw worthy comparison with the Australian middle-order! On March 12th 2013 a swashbuckling 4-0 demolition of Italian giants AC Milan in the European Champions League provided a brutal statement of intent in response to the critical mauling that followed their tame 2-0 reversal in the first-leg encounter. A high-octane, super-charged performance fuelled by a raging passion and desire to ram the gloating taunts suggesting an imminent demise firmly back down the throats of their doubters! A mesmeric display from their Argentine magician Lionel Messi, a metronomic passing masterclass from their Spanish World Cup winning axis of Xavi and Andres Iniesta and the rampaging Dani Alves and Jordi Alba on the flanks; arguably the finest club side for a generation served notice that they were not prepared to meekly surrender their throne without a struggle. And, true to form, the European media moved quickly to erase their premature obituaries of FC Barcelona; practically falling over themselves in the clamour to lavish praise and hail the mastery and self-belief of the Catalan Carousel.

Fast-forward a month or so and Barca’s 4-0 thrashing at the hands of FC Bayern Munich has seen the Catalan’s once again cast as a fast-diminishing force; a weak squad overly-reliant on Messi and hamstrung by a club ideology that persists with an outdated¬†tiki-taka¬†style that has been ‘found out’ and surpassed by the power and pace of the teutonic thoroughbreds of FC Bayern. Indeed, coupled with Borussia Dortmund’s annihilation of Real Madrid, there has been a barrage of criticism and accusation hurled towards Spain’s La Liga amidst fervent speculation and debate as to just how far the quality within Spain’s domestic league has fallen behind the all-conquering German Bundesliga!?

There is little doubt in my mind that, barring Barca’s heroics against AC Milan, the two most impressive clubs in this season’s European Champions League have been FC Bayern and Borussia Dortmund. And by a distance! It is no surprise to me that London’s Wembley Stadium could play host to the first all-German Final in the competition’s history. And deservedly so! But can two matches truly gauge an irreversible power-shift to crown the Bundesliga?

Borussia Dortmund remain the only unbeaten side in this year’s European Champions League and have played Real Madrid three times so far, twice in the initial Group Stage (Dortmund winning 2-1 at home and sharing the spoils 2-2 in Madrid) before the semi-final first-leg 4-1 triumph. But it is equally relevant to recall that Dortmund were seconds away from elimination at the hands of Malaga CF in the previous round before a contentious injury-time goal saw the Germans squeeze through. FC Bayern topped a group containing Spain’s final representative, Valencia CF, and have enjoyed a relatively untroubled cruise into the semi-final, despatching both Arsenal and Juventus with the minimum of fuss.

Looking a little closer at Bayern’s dominant 4-0 first-leg victory over Barca there can be no denying the German’s superiority in all departments on the field of play. They harassed Barcelona in possession of the ball, pressuring the normally unflappable Barca midfield into uncharacteristic errors and forcing their powerful style upon the visitors. Rarely have I seen Xavi and Andres iniesta misplace so many passes and be so careless in possession. But, without taking anything away from FC Bayern, I also believe Barca contributed to their downfall in certain key areas. Firstly it was patently obvious that Lionel Messi was nowhere near fit enough to play following his thigh injury. He was little more than a passenger! It is difficult enough to compete with FC Bayern with a full complement of players on the pitch; to attempt to do so with just ten-men was suicidal, no matter Messi’s reputation and undoubted quality! Whilst not as gifted as Messi, surely David Villa or Cesc Fabregas could have made a more substantial contribution than the lame Argentine?

Page 1 of 2 | Next page