Fear of failure spooking Camp Nou collective ahead of Milan showdown

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A small gesture can speak about 500 words in Spanish. Handily, that’s about the length of a typical column/rant/stream of consciousness from one of the millions of pundits churning out footballing bits and pieces in the daily papers.

When Cristiano Ronaldo scored his wonder-thwack against Osasuna on Saturday and revealed a shapely thigh, it was enough to send Josep María Casanovas off the edge, with the Sport writer claiming on Monday that this was yet more evidence of the moral superiority of Leo Messi over what he considers to be a comparitively vulgar Portuguese prole. “He couldn’t think of any other celebration than to lift up his shorts leg, show off the muscle and tell his team-mates: ‘what a great leg I have, it’s a cannon’”.

In actual fact, Ronaldo was making a private joke with Madrid’s back-up keeper Antonio Adán, who had mocked the forward for only working on his upper body in the gym, but why let a wee fact get in the way of another body blow in the endless Clásico wars.

This led LLL to think that surely the culé crazies had bigger fish to fry this week, and sure enough by Tuesday morning Casanovas was finally focussed on a matter considerably more important than Ronaldo’s manly thighs - AC Milan coming to the Camp Nou in the second leg of their Champions League semi-final.

The writer continues a theme in the Catalan capital ahead of the game, that the Milan meeting is a final that isn’t a final but in actual fact is a final. “It’s the most important match of the season. Spectacle won’t be enough, no other result that a win for Barça will do.” The paper is once again calling for the fans to play their part in the match - usually a definite sign of panic - by clapping occasionally and making making the odd whoop of encouragement. “With this support, with this team, today we’ll go to the semis!” yells the cheerleading front cover.

There are few outward signs of nerves, with Francesc Aguilar over at Mundo Deportivo getting rather excited about a “night of champions, superstars, some of those of Barça who are the best in the world and will want to confirm this.”

This bravado designed to ease the bone-clattering of the culé collective expresses genuine nail-biting stress that this is a clash where Barcelona may not win out and that it will be the dastardly Italians and their defensive ways going through to the semi-finals. 

Although the 2-2 draw at the Camp Nou in the group stages was a bit of a flukey one for Milan, there are fears another smash and grab is possible, especially with Barcelona failing to score in San Siro last Wednesday. Pep Guardiola certainly feels that way, admitting that he is not afraid of an away goal because he knows it is going to happen.

“I have the feeling that they are going to score, so this doesn’t worry me,” claimed the Barcelona boss at Monday’s press conference. Carles Puyol peered out from behind his perm to also speak about the final nature of the non-final. “The match is a final in the sense that only a victory is enough.”

The return of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, an ability to defend well by the Swede’s teammates, a decent attack and a spotty record for Leo Messi against Italian teams sees a tense night to come in the Camp Nou for Barcelona, but one in which LLL feels Barcelona will eventually prevail.