HOW much money did you lose this week?
Come on now, be honest. How many of you gambled on an El Clasico Champions League final?
And I don’t blame you for feeling down, while probably nursing a slight hangover from last night’s festivities. It was after all Thursday night and with today being a public holiday, at least you are able to stay home.
While the Real Madrid-Bayern Munich game was always going to be in the balance, nobody expected Chelsea to get the better of Barcelona in a two-leg semi-final. I think there was a better chance of my hair growing back over my bald spot than that result happening.
I mean, how did the great Barcelona manage to lose to Chelsea with more than double the number of shots at goal and over 70% possession and territory over two legs?
I can tell you how: with lots of heart, tactical discipline and spirit, coupled with Barcelona’s arrogance.
I love beautiful, flowing football like most lovers of the round-ball game, but there is a side to me that also loves a team laying it all on the line, ready to spill blood to achieve their objective.
That is a sort of “no guts, no glory” attitude, which can sometimes be so cliché, but also so emotionally moving.
But it wasn’t just that aspect of Chelsea’s display that was a standout feature. What struck me about the second half at the Nou Camp was how tactically brilliant Chelsea were and how naïve Barcelona turned out to be. By crowding their midfield, even though it was on the edge of their penalty area, the Blues forced Barca to attack the wide areas, away from goal. Barcelona then tried to force some of their passes and one-twos, which were easily dealt with by Chelsea.
And because the Catalan side don’t really have a strong targetman who is good in the air, they could not change their gameplan and try a few long balls into the box. They became too predictable ...
Some would say Chelsea were anti-football and that they parked the proverbial bus. But I say a gameplan is still a plan, no matter the brand of football you decide to dish up on the day.
Barca had more territory and possession than a National Party cabinet minister during the apartheid era. But they couldn’t make it count. Why? Because they were out-thought by Blues interim manager Roberto di Matteo, who I think could be worth a gamble to be the new Special One at Stamford Bridge.
Di Matteo has brought back the spirit in the team, and without that spirit, his gameplan would never have worked.
So often emotions can get the better of players in a game like that, where concentration on defence is critical. But they kept it together, because of their manager and the influence he has had on this team.
The Blues are again going into the final against Bayern as the underdogs. But with the spirit and character they showed on Tuesday night, don’t be surprised if they are the top dogs at the end of the match.
It’s worth a gamble. Who knows, you might get your money back …
TWEETS OF THE WEEK
@juanmata10 (The Chelsea playmaker makes his feelings known after their epic Champions League encounter against Barcelona on Wednesday): Yes!!! We’re going to Munich! We’re playing the big final!! We have suffered but it was worth it... Thanks to your support we made it! #cfc
@GNev2 (Gary Neville, former footballer turned commentator, after his voice collapsed at the end of the match at the Nou Camp): Wow! Football .. My sore throat collapsed on the Torres goal!!! #squeakynevtime
@Yakubu_24 (Blackburn striker Yakubu Aiyegbeni has an evil twin on Twitter who pretends to be him): Knock knock. Whos There? Sergio Ramos. Hello Ramos. Can I have the ball back please?
WHO TO FOLLOW
@Persie_Official: Follow the English PFA and Football Writers Player of the Year for the latest on all things Arsenal.