Birthday congratulations have been pouring in all week for Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola, who turned 40 on Tuesday, and it is worth taking a moment to reflect on his phenomenal record since he took over from Frank Rijkaard at the end of the 2007-08 season.
Reuters Soccer Blog
Has Lady Luck deserted holders Barcelona as their players suggested or did Rubin Kazan coach Kurban Berdyev and his players pull off the tactical masterstroke that has eluded so many others since Pep Guardiola took over at the Nou Camp at the start of last season?******It was probably a bit of both that led to Barca’s 2-1 defeat on Tuesday, their first Champions League reverse in 10 matches and a first home defeat in any competition since they lost to Osasuna last May when they had already secured the La Liga title.******The match was reminiscent of last season’s semi-final first leg against Chelsea, when the visitors defended stoutly in numbers and several times came close to grabbing a goal on the break.******Rubin went one better than the London club, exploiting the indifferent form and lack of pace of Barca’s Mexican central defender Rafael Marquez for Gokdeniz Karadeniz’s excellent winner on the counter attack.******The wily Berdyev, an intensely private man, watched impassively from the sidelines fingering his prayer beads, and Barca’s rivals, both in Spain and beyond, will doubtless try to learn from his success.******Whatever the reasons for Barca’s shock defeat, the hacks at the Madrid-based sports sheets were rubbing their hands on Wednesday, gleefully pointing to last weekend’s goalless draw at Valencia in La Liga and proclaiming the demise of Guardiola’s record-breaking side.******“Russian revolution at the Nou Camp!” trumpeted Marca.******“The ‘Pep Team’ lost their identity and were unable to produce the rhythm the match required. This Barca is not the champion,” was the headline in As.******The Barcelona-based papers preferred to focus on the fact that the European champions remain top of Group F after three out of six matches and have their fate in their own hands ahead of the trips to Kazan and Dynamo Kiev and Inter Milan’s visit to the Nou Camp.******“Crisis? What crisis?” asked Gabriel Sans in El Mundo Deportivo. “Barca have lost some fluidity and tactical freshness but their fate still depends on their own results.******”The glass is half full and they’ll drain it in Russia and drink to the health of whoever wants it.”******“Damn woodwork!” wrote Sport, referring to Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s acrobatic volley that shook the crossbar in the second half and Yaya Toure’s header at the death that crashed against a post.******Guardiola seemed to take the loss in his stride, although he had a minor altercation with a Russian journalist at the post-match news conference when he was bizarrely asked if he even knew Berdyev’s name.******“This is why football is special,” he said of the match. “In any other sport, with our statistics, we would have won.”******PHOTO: Barcelona’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic reacts as Rubin Kazan’s Vital Kaleshin (R) gestures during their Champions League soccer match at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, October 20, 2009. REUTERS/Albert Gea
You are guaranteed goals when Barcelona take on Atletico Madrid each season, and Saturday’s encounter at the Nou Camp was no exception as the European champions romped to a 5-2 victory.
While Real Madrid were tying up their deal to sign Kaka from AC Milan, Barcelona seemed curiously ambivalent about the possibility of losing one of their big-name players, the Cameroon striker Samuel Eto’o .