Things are definitely changing. The international press has been pushing the idea of a revolution in football since Barça’s impressive display in Sunday’s Club World Cup final. The Santos coach Muricy Ramalho’s comments that Barça played a 3-7-0 formation have added to the idea that something new is happening in the game. However, despite our obvious joy at becoming World Champions again, if we look at things calmly we can see that the current success of Barça is based on ideas that have been around for quite some time.
The tactical formation that so many are scratching their heads about is the one Guardiola played in so many times under Johan Cruyff, three at the back and the withdrawn centre forward were quite normal in the pre-Romario Dream Team with Laudrup usually the player allowed to drift and swap positions. Guardiola has added things, the pressing game is better and the approach to things such as diet is probably even more professional now but our current success is not based on anything new, it is the result of years of believing in a way of playing that has allowed so many young players to grow up learning to play in the Barça way. These things need patience as Luis Enrique is discovering at Italy though the signs are there that if he is given time he will build a very good team at Roma.
So what’s changing then? Well, tomorrow night we play a second leg Copa del Rey match with Second Division B side L’Hospitalet. For many years these second leg cup games against lower opposition were generally a bit of a yawn. A few years ago these were games where we got to see the expensive signings who’d flopped turn out to remind us just how poor they were. However, under Pep Guardiola the attitude to these games is different. Last season we were treated to a 5-1 win over Ceuta which was the game where Thiago Alcantara really showed Camp Nou what he is capable of for the first time, while the year before that we gave another decent display to beat Cultura Leonesa 5-0.
And then earlier this month in a seemingly meaningless Champions League match with Bate Borisov, we had the opportunity to witness a thoroughly enjoyable game thanks to the up-and-coming generation with the talent of Rafinho, Deulofeu, Montoya, Bartra, Sergi Roberto among others. This week Martin Montoya, who today signed until 2014, trained with the first team along with Oier, Muniesa, Cuenca, Dos Santos, Sergi Roberto, Rafinha and Tello, so these players will probably be those chosen to fill in for Keita, Abidal and the South American players who have all been allowed to begin their Christmas holidays early.
So it might not be Santos or Manchester United, but the game should still be enjoyable and it offers a good chance to see the stars of the future. In case you had forgotten we won the first leg 0-1 thanks to a scorcher from Andres Iniesta.
Possible starting XI: Pinto; Montoya, Piqué, Fontás, Muniesa; Dos Santos, Busquets, Sergi Roberto; Cuenca, Rafinha, Pedro.
My prediction: Barça 4 L’Hospitalet 0
Kick off 10pm local time