Tim Stannard reports the reaction from a fine week for Barcelona and Atletico Madrid...
“Congratulations Barça, another robbery.”
But rather than yet another comment from Manuel Pellegrini on Tuesday’s refereeing display, those were the mischievous thoughts tweeted by Real Madrid legend Guti on Barcelona’s 2-0 victory against Manchester City. In one line, the former Madrid maverick proved once again that he was one of the last chunks of cheese cut off the big block of football fun.
Naturally, the first leg win in Manchester wasn’t seen like that in the Catalan capital, which was able to dust off the smug machine for an evening, having been mothballed during a six-month period of self-doubt and beaten by Valencia.
“Straight to the quarters!” announced the front cover of Wednesday’s Sport, not at all jumping the gun. “The first big win in Europe will surely bring the sort of tranquility that doesn’t always exist at Barça,” soothed Joan Vehils on the victory. Mundo Deportivo was a little more forthright and old school in its cheerleading, with Santi Nolla writing that “the message was clear: the best Barça is in the Champions League.”
Naturally, Marca wasn't going to allow the legality of Leo Messi’s penalty to go to waste, and ran a story suggesting a 50% split in an online poll about whether the decision was the right one or not. All in all, it was a bit of surprise when LLL was expecting a 99% vs 1% cut in favour of the controversial claims of Man City’s normally placed boss.
Being the experienced former player and top-level coach that LLL is, the blog can confirm City went wrong by expecting Barcelona to be hyper-brilliant, rather than repeatedly giving the ball to Gerard Piqué in the opening 15 minutes and watching the chaos unfold. Instead, Barça did their passing thing, created some chances and eventually stuck a couple away. It's all but put them into the quarter-finals, where they'll be praying to all the gods that Bayern Munich are not next in their path.
But Barça weren't the only Spanish side in action for whom things went splendidly in the Champions League this week. Atlético Madrid came away from the San Siro with a 1-0 win over AC Milan courtesy of Diego Costa's 83rd-minute effort. Chances were missed by Milan thanks to poor finishing and yet more great work from Thibaut Courtois, while the visitors kicked the hosts around a bit and grabbed a late winner.
SEE ALSO Atletico keeper Courtois wary of Milan threat
Before beginning writing, LLL had not seen the post-match comments of Diego Simeone, but suspected they centred around courage, pride and being men as if coming from a Gene Hackman speech. But alas, the Argentine was in a more tactical mood, noting that Milan targeted Atlético’s weaker left flank and praised the work of his striker and goalkeeper. “It’s a good step forward, but the second leg in the Calderón is left,” warned the Atleti boss, on a game in three weeks that might see a few injured players return.
However, Milan showed that despite all the evidence to the contrary in Serie A, the Italian side still has some fire in its belly. Unlike Barcelona, Atleti still have a bit of work to be done.
STATS ZONE Analyse Man City 0-2 Barcelona • Analyse Milan 0-1 Atletico Madrid