Anthems, starting lineups, major goosebumps. I've dreaded this match-up for weeks because of Barca's form, but I'm a sucker for my teams and now I'm amped...five hours after the game started and thousands of miles away. The Nou Camp, which isn't noted for being especially loud, is absolutely rocking. The fans are really getting behind their struggling team.
Barca's big surprise is Deco in the starting lineup. He has barely been seen in the past several months. He made a sudden return against Real Madrid in December and did not play well. United have an attacking lineup, with Rooney, Tevez, and Ronaldo all on from the start.
2 min. Well that was an eventful start. Barca give the ball away from the kickoff, they give up a free kick, then a corner, then a penalty. Milito, Barca's best defender, lets Ronaldo get his head to the ball and then handles it. A smidge of a harsh call, but not entirely unjust. Ronaldo then misses the frame on the penalty.
10 min. - Barca have dominated since Ronaldo's let-off. They force several corners and Messi is buzzing.
12 min. Van der Sar gives the ball away, Barca come in three on two, but Eto'o's pass is a little off. Get that out of your system before the summer, Edwin.
14. min. More pressure from Barca. Marquez hits a free kick into the wall, then Messi creates more pressure. Messi is all over the place, definitely not sticking to the right wing. Tim Vickery would be pleased.
16 min. It just occurred to me that the Nou Camp crowd have plenty of experience whistling a visiting side wearing all white.
18 min. Toure is bossing it in the middle. Barca are a much better team with a proper defensive midfielder.
21 min. Odds that Paul Scholes will get a card in this match fouling Messi: 78%.
24 min. Ronaldo is off his game since the penalty miss. His contribution since then have been a series of dives, a lot of complaining, one dust-up with Valdes, and an instance where he dribbled the ball off his ankles.
28 min. Iniesta frees Ronaldo with a dreadful pass, but Ronaldo takes a swan dive in the box and nothing comes of it. I can see why everyone in the EPL hates Cristiano.
31 min. Barca have had the lionshare of the possession and corners, but United have had the better chances. A familiar refrain for Barca. Barca have come close to hooking up in the box with passes, but nothing to test van der Sar.
32 min. I'm a little perplexed by Sir Alex starting both Tevez and Rooney and then giving them defensive duties on the wings. Is this for counter-attacking purposes? Is Sir Alex really that much of a skirt on the road...or is this exactly the strategy that always works against Barca at home? Can I really begrudge Sir Alex for doing what works?
35 min. Hargreaves has had the measure of Iniesta on the left. Is that Bojan's music coming on the hour?
40 min. Marquez, whom I worried would be the weak link when I saw him in the starting lineup in Puyol's place, has been very solid so far, as have both of the United centerbacks. Who makes the mistake first: Marquez or Wes Brown?
44 min. Wing free kick for United. I am very fearful. Ronaldo elects to shoot instead of sending in a cross to a surely unmarked attacker (going on Barca's recent marking on set pieces). Thank you, Cristiano.
Halftime - Janusz Michalik is exactly right at the half: Sir Alex has his tactics right and is waiting for Barca to futilely attack ten behind the ball before his team counters.
47 min. Xavi undresses Scholes in the middle, but the attack fizzles out in the final third. So much skill and yet no clear chances. As soon as I say that, Eto'o gets free in the box, but his pass cannot find Messi in front. Good defending by Hargreaves and Messi should have done more to free himself.
51 min. There was Eto'o's chance. Free on the right of goal and he shot into the side netting. Messi and Iniesta made sweet love on a pair of passes to free Eto'o. Iniesta's touch was especially sublime. We may not be able to beat anyone in the Primera, but dammit, English champions-elect, we have more touch than you.
52 min. Marquez makes the mistake that we all feared, completely whiffing as Carrick goes right by him and into a one-on-one with Valdes, which he hammers into the side netting with free men at the far post. A big let-off for Barca. We survived the big Marquez mistake. Wes Brown, you're up.
61 min. Messi off, Krkic on. Not a bad move. Best to save Messi. I thought that Krkic would come on for Iniesta, but Henry might be tagged for that slot on the left. Thierry is warming up.
68 min. I can't remember the last time United had possession in the Barca half. That said, Barca have been reduced to toothless efforts from outside in the last ten minutes.
74 min. I thought that EPL sides were big on pressing. They've really conceded possession to Barca, even moreso in the second half.
81 min. The game is petering out a little, most likely before a final flourish.
87 min. United have played as if Ronaldo hit the target in the first minute. I'll never listen to Sir Alex or United fans talk about their commitment to attacking or atractive football. At least Chelsea have scored when they came to the Nou Camp.
Full time. I'm not sure how I feel about this. 0-0 is not a bad result at home, especially with Barca struggling at present and United facing a tough match this weekend...where they'll probably play like pu**ies again. Barca having a ton of possession and not scoring is an old song this season.