Beauty And The Beast - The Barcelona Superiority Complex

GRANADA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 25: Xavi Hernandez (C) of FC Barcelona lines up a free kick beside Lionel Messi (L) and Daniel Alves during the La Liga match between Granada CF and FC Barcelona at estadio Estadio Nuevo De Los Carmines on October 25, 2011 in Granada, Spain. Xavi scored from the free kick. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)

The result is unjust but we knew that Chelsea are a team that take advantage of their opportunities.

-Andres Iniesta. Source: ESPN.

Andres Iniesta isn't alone here. The trend, when Barcelona lose, is to call the result an injustice, a travesty. 'A tear rolled down the eye of football' when Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan knocked them out in 2010, despite the fact that the Italians absolutely thrashed Barcelona at the San Siro. Although Pep Guardiola is, as ever, charming, generous and fairly accurate in his assessment of the situation, the rest of the club is hardly shy in expressing their contempt for anyone who fails to adhere to the Barcelona way.

If Chelsea had gone on the offensive on Wednesday, we'd have been ripped apart. Space between the lines is what Barcelona thrive on. The only time Chelsea pushed hard up the pitch, Barcelona nearly scored - the Alexis Sanchez crossbar hit was a direct result of our failure to hold a deep line. Andre Villas-Boas style football would have been a traumatic experience. We'd probably have lost 5-2 and been praised (read: patronised) by our opposition for playing the game the 'right' way.

And that's the thing, really. Barcelona, and their most ardent fans, believe that they've hit upon the one true way of playing football. The possession game, they say, is the beautiful game. Everything else? That's wrong, and they're on a crusade to exterminate anything that violates their faith.

Meanwhile, we poor saps who aren't quite as good at keeping the ball (and I don't want to denigrate Barcelona's ability here - to a man, they're all, absolutely fantastic players), when faced with a team of their calibre, have to do not-so-pretty things in order to have any hope at all of getting a result. That's football, but normally people don't complain about it when the opposition doesn't simply roll over and let you win 10-0.

Barcelona do, seemingly because they don't consider it football at all. Aesthetically, many people find Barcelona prettier on the eye than, say, Stoke City, but we're not playing for style points here. We're playing to win, and as far as I'm concerned, any way you can get there is of some interest. Rory Delap's long throw-ins are no less a part of football than intricate triangles in the penalty box (and they're much funnier).

Strangely, Barcelona's insistence on following their possession dogma to the absolute letter hurts them pretty badly in some cases. It certainly did at Stamford Bridge yesterday - they were so insistent on keeping possession that they didn't even take risks twenty yards from goal, always going for the safe pass rather than the dangerous one. That, paradoxically, made them easier to defend, because their refusal to do anything that might compromise possession made them easy to channel into less dangerous areas.

For me, the sport isn't about choosing one way of playing and sticking to it, insisting that you've found nirvana and condemning everyone else who refuses to follow you up that particular mountain. It's about adapting to your opponent and doing what you can with what you've got. That's what Roberto di Matteo did yesterday. Were we lucky to win? Yes. Was a good result undeserved? No.

We did what we had to. We'll try to do it again. Deal with it.

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