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Guardiola needs to show mettle after Mourinho mugging
Failure and Pep Guardiola are words that haven’t appeared together in the same sentence for some time, but the Barcelona coach has a big task on his hands if he is to prevent them being applied to his side’s end of the season.
He was right to argue after Wednesday’s Champions League exit to Inter Milan that it was hardly a case of his team being a victim of their own success.
They top La Liga by one point from Real Madrid with four games left to play, having already collected 87 points – a figure that won them the title last year after all 38 games, and which was last bettered in 1997 by Real Madrid when there were 22 teams in the division.
A Champions League semi-final isn’t to be sniffed at either, but there is such a fine line between success and failure.
Last year, Barca only got through the semi-final against Chelsea thanks to a large slice of luck and a dramatic late goal from Andres Iniesta.
Bojan Krkic looked like he might have done it again on Wednesday, but his last-ditch effort was ruled out for a tough handball decision against Yaya Toure. Did Inter deserve to go through any more than Chelsea last year? Perhaps yes, for their first leg performance.
Barca were as grey as Guardiola’s suit against Inter and they seemed not to have a Plan B when it became clear Jose Mourinho’s well-organised team were not going to let them play their way into the area with their intricate little passes.
Inter stifled them, Espanyol did it a couple of weeks ago, and with four games left in La Liga Real Madrid might scent another trip up over the next three weeks.
Guardiola’s six-trophy haul in 2009 marks him out as an outstanding coach, but he needs to show what he is really made of now, by picking himself and his players up after being mugged by Mourinho.
They have particularly tough away trips to Villarreal on Saturday and Sevilla next weekend, they are under pressure from a Real side likely to win all their remaining games, and Guardiola needs to reconnect his midfielders with his forwards.
If he can do that to win La Liga, and prove to everyone he was right to swap Samuel Eto’o for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, he will be heading in the right direction once again.
PHOTO: Barcelona coach Josep Guardiola reacts during their Champions League first leg, semi-final soccer match against Inter Milan at San Siro stadium in Milan April 20, 2010. REUTERS/Tony Gentile