Wednesday, April 05, 2006
See You at Brewhouse at 2:30, Part Dos
It just occurred to me that I never blogged my thoughts on the first leg against Benfica, or at least the half of the game that I did see after being lied to by Yahoo's TV listings and starting my tape in the 44th minute. Going into the game, I would have been thrilled with 0-0 on the road leg, since Barca was having to start an outside defender (Oleguer) and a defensive midfielder (Motta) in central defense as a result of injuries to Marquez and Edmilson and Puyol's suspension. After watching the second half, I was still happy with 0-0, as both sides created some good chances and both keepers were forced to play very well to keep the game scoreless. (It was reassuring that the inconsistent Victor Valdes came through for Barca between the sticks, as he was coming to be seen as a the weak link in a very good side.) However, after seeing highlights of the gilt-edged chances that Barca spurned in the first half, I had some queasiness. They should have been up 2-0 at the half and cantering into the semifinals. If they blow it today, they'll look back at that first half and know that that's where they lost the chance to win the Champions League.
Generally speaking, Barca is struggling to score goals right now. Their midfield is performing well, despite the fact that their injury crisis has hit them there, as well. They're routinely getting 60% of possession in their games and creating corner after corner (the corners were 9-1 in the first leg against Benfica and 8-0 this weekend against Real Madrid), but they're not finishing well. Part of this has to be blamed on Henrik Larsson, who has been playing in place of Leo Messi and has done OK, but has missed a number of good chances in the two legs. (And now you see why Barca is rumored to be after Thierry Henry.) Part of this has to be blamed on Samuel Eto'o, although I still have lots of confidence in him. )He's at least the best apostrophed athlete since Butler By'not'e.) Part of the slump has to be blamed on Ronaldinho, who has forgotten how to shoot, especially on free kicks, where he used to be lethal and now, he's not hitting the target. Anyway, the team is either due for a festival of goals or their finishing slump is going to make for a nerve-wracking afternoon. I'd give them a 70% chance of progressing today, but if they don't find their shooting shoes, they don't have a very chance of knocking off AC Milan in the semifinals.