Ã¢ÂÂVisionaryÃ¢ÂÂ, Ã¢ÂÂstunningÃ¢ÂÂ, Ã¢ÂÂbreathtakingÃ¢ÂÂ - just three of the adjectives that swept around an enraptured Camp Nou on Wednesday night. But sadly for 90-odd thousand Catalan crazies gathered in their sweaty stadium for the annual Gamper trophy encounter, the words were not being used to describe the performance of their pimpled players in the 1-0 defeat to Manchester City.
Instead, they were a homage to Pep GuardiolaÃ¢ÂÂs outfit for the evening. The natty BarÃÂ§a boss had elected to give the watching world a true treat by sporting a thermal vest - what with it being oh-so chilly in the Catalan capital - paired with two shirts worn over each other, one blue, one pink.
It was a spectacular ensemble that was a thrilling throwback to PepÃ¢ÂÂs much-missed Marks and Sparks cardigan phase from the start of the last campaign. The league champions were in action on a Wednesday evening that saw SpainÃ¢ÂÂs big three (two-and-a-half?) take to the football field, but BarcelonaÃ¢ÂÂs clash was perhaps the least important of the trio. The friendly run-out against City was another chance for Pep to peruse his cantera players to see which have bigger cojones than 800m runner Caster Semenya, and could be handy in the campaign to come. And thatÃ¢ÂÂs why Barcelona started the night with such household names as Montoya and FontÃÂ¡s, before bringing on Gai, Thiago, Batra and Jonathan.
Heck, even Gudjohnsen got a game. In fact, Guardiola used 22 players on the night. One of those was a certain Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who had a curious spell on the pitch seeing crosses from Dani Alves go flying over his head, which was quite an achievement considering the size of the Swedish striker. Like the rest of his team-mates, the new recruit was unable to find the back of the net despite BarÃÂ§aÃ¢ÂÂs 23 efforts compared to CityÃ¢ÂÂs three.
However a perky Pep seemed to have enjoyed himself and was happy to see his expensive signing get some minutes under his belt. Ã¢ÂÂIbrahimovic has come for five years, not one day,Ã¢ÂÂ pointed out the Barcelona boss on what really would have been an expensive signing. Sport described the night as Ã¢ÂÂa fiesta, but without a goal.Ã¢ÂÂ
AS were a little less charitable by grumbling in ThursdayÃ¢ÂÂs editorial that the youthful line-up was Ã¢ÂÂa lack of respect to those who turned up,Ã¢ÂÂ opining that the strongest XI possible should have started the encounter. The second least important game of the night was Real MadridÃ¢ÂÂs penultimate friendly of the summer - an away tie celebrating Borussia DortmundÃ¢ÂÂs 100th birthday. After a truly dreadful display against Real Sociedad last weekend, which the Madridista press seemed to think was inspirational, a decent showing against their German opponents was required.
And thatÃ¢ÂÂs exactly what happened with a 5-0 bullying over their Bundesliga buddies. However it was not all sweet smelling roses in MadridÃ¢ÂÂs garden with a beardy-weirdy, Iker Casillas looking very much out of sorts, the defence struggling at set pieces and Cristiano Ronaldo still very pants indeed. Ã¢ÂÂIt would be bad if I was playing really well already,Ã¢ÂÂ explained the Portuguese underperformer. AS see the result as proof that Madrid have already written their name on this seasonÃ¢ÂÂs Champions League trophy.
Ã¢ÂÂI can smell The Tenth,Ã¢ÂÂ pants TomÃÂ¡s Roncero who describes the match as Ã¢ÂÂa bullfighting warning to the whole of Europe. Madrid are here.Ã¢ÂÂOver in Marca-land, their match report likens PellegriniÃ¢ÂÂs Real Madrid to Mike Tyson - an interesting road to take thinks the blog.
Ã¢ÂÂThey are not as easy-on-the-eye as BarÃÂ§a, nor as technical as Arsenal, nor as fast as Manchester United, but when they hit you, youÃ¢ÂÂll be sleeping on the canvas.Ã¢ÂÂThe only proper Ã¢ÂÂpartidoÃ¢ÂÂ of the evening was AtlÃÂ©tico MadridÃ¢ÂÂs Champions League first leg qualifier against Panathinaikos in Greece. And the rojiblancos pulled a belter out of the bag with a 3-2 win. But just as important as the result was the fact that their two sassy strikers who both scored on the night, Kun AgÃÂ¼ero and Diego ForlÃÂ¡n, are now cup-tied which should be enough to ward off the big boys from the British Isles who may have designs on them. Nevertheless, Abel Resino is not quite ready to count his Champions League cookies just yet, knowing that his rojiblanco side are famous for cocking things up royally anytime, anyplace, anywhere.
Ã¢ÂÂItÃ¢ÂÂs a good result, but its dangerous,Ã¢ÂÂ mused the Atleti manager. Wednesday saw three different games, three different results but three reasons to be cheerful for the Spanish sides involved.
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