Well, it was a rather dire, even boring game of football tonight, but for once, it really does not matter. With that 1 point in Levante, we take our total tally to 92 points, and are officially crowned as CHAMPIONS of La Liga 2010/11! Three league titles in a row is an incredible feat and there has never been a point in history so wonderful to be culé. We have a team filled with the elite players, if not the leaders of their ilk, in each position of the pitch and are commanded by one of the most legendary characters and players in our history. Add to all that, the vast majority are all proper homegrown players, something no other team in Europe can even get close to. Not even Madrid mega millions, their “special” manger, the loss of our captain since January, a defensive crisis, a World Cup hangover, and even a tumor in our best defender at the time could derail us. These are truly special times and I could never have fathomed a more wonderful group of players and manager to take be creating this history. With a lot of the squad relatively young, players breaking through, and the healthy balance of our finances (forget Rosell’s early season rants) we can hope for a few more years of stellar seasons. The only possible sad note would be the departure of Guardiola, but let’s leave that for the future if and when.
We started tonight in Levante with a team with a few changes here and there as expected, but the leftback slot was a bit of a surprise. Abidal got his first start since his tumor scare and it was seriously wonderful to see him there. He had a pretty solid game as well aside from one small moment of doubt. There was also room for Afellay instead of Pedroand no place for birthday boy Iniesta for Keita.
Very little happened in either half so the summary is short and sweet. The first 20 minutes foreshadowed the rest of the game, us with loads of possession but not overly trying to break Levante down, while they sat deep in their half and made life difficult. In truth, they had a few decent chances with a Valdo header and Caicedo shot and we had basically nothing. In actuality, we never had a proper chance all game, as in breaking down the defense and getting a proper one on one.
Still we took the lead in the 28th minute, around the time we have been very lethal all season, with a super header from Seydou Keita. Xavi got the ball very deep in the half, and launched a perfect ball over the defense. Keita, who makes many forwards runs in every game, watched the ball hang in the air, tracked the flight perfectly, and between two defenders rocketed it off the forehead and into the top corner for his 3rd league goal of the season. People have this and that to say about Keita, but he is a model professional and wonderful part of our team. Of course, he will never dazzle you with his footwork or passing genius like Xavi and Iniesta, and will never put in a tackle like Masch can, but a player like him is vital and necessary for champions. He is there simply to assist when and where he can without complaint. He will not play for many matches, but when needed he comes in, 100% ready, 100% committed and does a tidy job if not a good job. He is a favorite of Pep not because of his football but because of his character and loyalty, two attributes that are far from abundant in this age of football.
Then in the 40th minute Pique had a brainfart and fluffed a clearance to allowe Caicedo to nick the ball when Valdes could not control it and slot it in quite nicely. Caicedo actually had a really good game and gave Pique quite a few problems. It was then clear we were not totally focused when Xavi lost the ball very poorly in the middle and Caicedo found himself nearly alone but we managed to block his progress.
That was the half, and the 2nd half has even less to report. I literally only picked up my pen twice aside from the 2 substitutions of Abidal for Fontas and Villa for Pedro in the 72nd and 85th minutes respectively.
I was rather subdued this game but I let out a giant OOOOH NOOO when Messi’s shot in the 57th minute came off the post. It was a truly majestic dribbling act he did, slipping and sliding past no less than 6 players with mesmerizing footwork and an incredibly display of balance and strength before his composed left footed shot slipped by Manua but not past the post. It would have easily been one of his seasons best. He had another lovely run in the 62nd minute that got deflected, but in this occasion his hunger to get the pichichi stopped him from playing in a very open David Villa, whose subdued performance was the only somewhat sad note tonight. The rest of the game we literally barely tried to get past our own half and Levante were quite happy to sit back to get the point so it ended in a 1-1.
But like I’ve said, tonight we don’t need to analyze this and that, just be joyful and mindful about the wonderful moments of the season that have brought us here. Even Villa himself who looked so unconfident and sad for himself coming off was unbridled in his joy of winning his first league title, the reason he moved to Barcelona. The game at home versus Deportivo Sunday should be followed by another great display by the Camp Nou to celebrate the trophy. Last year’s post game fiesta was really wonderful and I encourage everyone to make a note of seeing it again this year.
We are sure to rest most our stars for the remainder of the season, despite the fact I’m sure Messi wants to play. I think he will get nearly a full game or only 45 minutes in the next two games but Pep needs to be firm and let the boy get some rest. Villa maybe should stay in a bit more to get his confidence up and I’m sure Abidal will get game time to prove whether he can be fit for the Champions League final in a few weeks time.
CAMPEONES, CAMPEONES, OE OE OE!
Futbol Club Barcelona – Campions de La Liga 2010/11
Més que un club