I might end up looking looking pretty stupid in a few days, but let’s be honest it wouldn’t be the first time. Sometimes you just have to say what you think and see how the fates turn out. Take the brickbats when you’re wrong, and accept that nobody will remember the times when you were right. So, here goes: Barcelona will beat Bayern Munich and qualify for the final. OK, there it is. It’s out there, and I’m not taking it back!
Go on, I know you want to scoff at that statement. I admit the odds are against it. For the record, as I write this, the bookies have virtually written off the possibility of the Catalans winning the trophy at Wembley next month. The odds lie somewhere between 66-1 and ‘are you having a laugh’. Yes, I know Bayern have a 4-0 lead to take to the Camp Nou. Yes, I saw the game and Barca were pretty inept, whilst Bayern looked fully capable of going to Catalunya and notching an away goal – should that happen the Blaugrana would need six to qualify. Yes, I know all this. I’ve also heard the talk of a shift in power across Europe. Spain are on the wane, with Germany likely to be the new main men. I also know that German clubs are now being heralded as models of financial probity. The Teutonic was of balancing the books, buy young, low wages, and sell big. Financial Fair play, and all that. Platini must be loving it!
Despite all of this, and despite that the added fact that no-one has ever turned a four goal deficit around in the history of the Champions’ League, I just can’t shake this feeling that there’s an epic game out there waiting to be written into the annals of great sporting comebacks. Remember the boxer who got up off the floor at nine to land his own knockout blow. Remember the last wicket stand to play out a day for a draw. Remember the time that a team turned over a four goal deficit to reach the Champions’ League final. It just fits the list don’t you think. Yeah, I hear you say, but it ain’t going to happen. Well, I‘m not so sure.
So here’s my logic. Firstly, Barca have not become a bad team overnight. The team that all Europe feared has not declined so far, so quickly, into mediocrity. Secondly, the talismanic Messi will have another week’s fitness into his legs for the return. The player who could not sprint in the Allianz will be charged and ready to fire in the Camp Nou. Thirdly, the Catalan cauldron that is the Camp Nou will not allow a timid retreat. Having been to a number of games there, I can vouch for the passion that tumbles down from those steeply tiered stands. Finally, ‘fear the wounded animal’. The Barcelona players will have read all the reports of their apparent demise. The tales of managers pinning adverse press reports to the dressing room walls to inspire players are probably largely apocryphal, but there’s little doubt that the Barca players will be smarting under the whip of adverse publicity, and talk that there time is over. Upon hearing about rumours that he had died, Mark Twain once famously said that “talk of my death has been greatly exaggerated.” I can see a case where the Barcelona players want to make a similar statement.
Well, that’s my case. If we wake up after the game and Bayern have managed a comfortable draw, or one goal defeat, feel free to post a few comments along the lines of “you muppet” or similar. If however, Barca score early, and then hit another before half-time, with nothing in reply, we could just be in a ‘game on’ situation. They say it’s never over until the fat lady sings. I think there may be a few unexpected notes and lines, before we call on that diva.