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Sports

March to the Final


Aschille Clarke-Mendes, Contributor

With this season’s European football drawing to a close, The Howl reports on the endings of a stirring season with its marvels and disappointments, as last week’s climactic results showed a highly anticipated Champion’s League Classico finale that failed to materialize into anything worthwhile.

Barcelona was defeated by a rigidly organized Chelsea bottleneck defense. Both legs of the game resembled scenes from 300 as Lionel Messi and company failed to effectively penetrate Chelsea’s resilient ten-man defense.  The second leg in particular was a nail-biting scenario which saw wave after wave of shots ricochet to safety off of fledging Chelsea bodies and last-ditch saves. Messi showed his humanity with a missed penalty, and Fernando Torres emerged from a year-long sabbatical with a last-gasp effort to secure the Blue’s berth in the finals.

Real Madrid clawed back to a 3-3 goal aggregate in the second leg with Cristiano Ronaldo on fire, only to lose the penalty lottery with surprise misses from the first and second most expensive players in history. Questions may now be raised as to this season’s big-match appearances by Ronaldo and Messi, despite the two’s ridiculous goal haul this season – 58 and 68 goals respectively, at the time of this article’s submission.

The world waited in all certainty for an all-Spanish final, with Jose Mourinho, seer by hobby, predicting Barcelona in Munich as guaranteed. Josep Guardiola’s short yet affluent tenure at the helm of Barcelona is now recorded in the annals of football mythology.

After the historical 5-0 thrashing of Mourinho’s Madrid by Guardiola, for instance, one Barca reporter is quoted as saying, “they weren’t so much beaten by a team as by a philosophy.” For reasons of continuity, Tito Valanova has assumed leadership, being the right-hand man of Guardiola with the most first-hand exposure to his managerial style. And word on the street (a column written by Johan Cryuff) is that Vilanova is even more iron-fisted than his heralded predecessor.

True, Real Madrid has taken the cake this season, but all intuition points towards Barca’s practiced ethos producing more stability – albeit, not necessarily translating to annual trophies – that will attract the sort of widespread acclaim they’ve enjoyed due to unprecedented “orgasmic football” (Michel Platini, 2010).

Roberto Di Matteo has picked up some criticism for perceived “anti-football” tactics against the blaugranas, but then again, what else could they possibly do? Open play against a team that enjoys repeated 70 per cent possession?  The final will prove to be a true underdog story for both teams, and the winner’s story will be an enchanting one regardless of who it is.

Bayern Munich’s victory in their home stadium would warrant an enthralling football story, while a stuttering Chelsea team’s first Champion’s League triumph under makeshift coach Di Matteo would also make for golden headlines. The tie seems to be swinging Munich’s way though, being that it is in their backyard, and thanks to important absentees from Chelsea’s roster – John Terry is suspended following his sending off, and will be joined on the sidelines by Ramires, Branislav Ivanovic and Raul Meireles, having all been booked at Camp Nou.

But as was proven in the semi-finals, in football, anything can happen.

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