Barça secure an easy passage but Málaga look set for a rough ride

It only took a few seconds for pundits to begin pondering how Barcelona had managed to pull off a comprehensive 4-0 Champions League victory over AC Milan.

Was it a pre-match talk to the players from Tito Vilanova? Was it David Villa playing up front, with Leo Messi behind? Or was it simply the fact that the Barça players couldn’t stand the notion of being asked endless questions on whether a last 16 European knock-out would properly, definitely, completely, totally signify the infamous ‘end of a cycle’ for the club?

La Liga Loca plumps for the latter, as this was the narrative being planned in Capital City before Barcelona kicked-off the second leg with a two-goal deficit. Primera medical men in Madrid have been hovering over the Camp Nou club for some time, waiting for the moment they could soberly call time on their rival’s golden generation - probably missing out the “why did it have to be on my watch?” (LLL has been watching too much ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ of late). However, Tuesday’s result sees them having to go back to their consulting rooms to wait a little longer.

The delight and relief in the Catalan press is understandable, with Sport's Josep Maria Casanovas oozing over “the perfect game. The dream comeback. An unforgettable night. A five star Barça. A goal-fest that shut a lot of mouths."

Meanwhile, Mundo Deportivo’s front cover blasts “what a night!” with a photograph of a chuffed-looking David Villa seconds after scoring Barça’s third and definitive goal of the night.

Even the Madrid papers make an effort to look pleased for Barcelona, but perhaps in the manner of someone congratulating a colleague on winning a promotion instead of them. Marca’s trumpets “Barça’s return” and says that “now you have your epic comeback.”

“The sticker collection of the best Barça in history is complete,” notes the paper’s match report on the Camp Nou affair.

“This Barça now has the comeback that Xavi demanded. It began with the appearance of Piqué with a true leader’s message, it continued with a fast goal from Messi and was completed by a counter-attack ended by Jordi Alba,” writes AS editor, Alfredo Relaño, who also adds a truly chilling thought to rattle LLL’s bones. “There are new Clásicos on the horizon.”

On Wednesday night, the almost overlooked Málaga will be hoping to become the third Spanish side to enter Friday’s quarter-final draw, with a bit of a tense affair against Porto. The Portuguese side lead 1-0 from the first leg, but Málaga do have the ability to make sure the disadvantage doesn't widen, with the southern side possessing the second best defence in la Primera. The downside is that Málaga have only scored one measly goal since the Porto first leg, and that strike was a header from a free-kick, so not exactly from open play. “We have to think that every ball could see the game won or lost,” warned manager Manuel Pellegrini. 

While Barça’s passage to the quarters turned out to be a nice smooth plop, LLL suspects Málaga’s evening may involve grunting, groaning and the odd alarming smell. However, while the Camp Nou clash may have been entertaining, if not exactly epic, the blog predicts penalties and Málaga through to the last eight.*

*In the past weeks, LLL has been wrong about Real Madrid going through to the Copa del Rey final, beating Barça in la Liga and Barça beating Milan.