Football fans the world over know Barcelona better than any other team, apart from their own personal favourites. We have all marvelled at how this side redefined the game at club level, before carrying their modus operandi and success to the Spanish national team, with an even greater win ratio, but the devil is in the detail, and the details point to a vulnerability in Barcelona.
They have won European trophies three times in the last nine seasons but only once in the other six seasons have they been eliminated by a non-British team. Five times in nine seasons they have passed, jinked and outplayed British opposition without creating enough clear-cut chances to win the tie, or by protecting their goal sufficiently well.
Inter parked the bus in the 2010 Champions League semi-final, as only Inter can, but all others across continental Europe have been swept aside, no matter how defensively, flamboyantly or aggressively they play.
The pool of teams capable of beating over two legs Barcelona is admittedly small but any opponent who reaches the knock out stage of a competition from France, Germany, Netherlands, Portugal, Italy or Spain itself would take their chances seriously. The Russians, Ukrainians and Belgians would have a go too. None of these countries have a single team better than Barca by any objective measure, but the same is true of British teams.
There is something about the high-tempo nature of the British game this team just doesn’t cope well with. If they did, they would have won at least twice as many European trophies as they have in the last nine seasons. If it’s objective evidence you are looking for, you don’t need to look too far for a style of football Barcelona don’t cope with.
Chelsea triumphed twice during the period while Liverpool and Manchester United both won once. The sequence started when Celtic drew 0-0 at the Camp Nou after a 1-0 win in Glasgow in 2004. Liverpool also knocked Barca out three years earlier and don’t ask a Dundee United fan about their exploits at the Camp Nou unless you have an hour to kill!
Play your own game, Celtic.