...that I will never be making predictions again. Before my predictions embark on the walk of shame and eventually exit, I feel obliged to mention something often overlooked. Going four-and-oh is mathematically just as difficult as going 4-0.
Note - I was going to call going, "4-0" going, "Jake" but the Corruption and Scandals Committee has yet to rule on the quadfecta.
Anyway, missing all four games in comical fashion pays just as well as the opposite. The only catch is that you need to know I'm a complete dope and to bet against me. I actually have a name for this occurrence - the anti-muse. It was forced by my friend Eebs who controls Cleveland's sporting world with his online bets. It's too soon to declare me a Champions League Anti-muse but lets just say that if I had had the opportunity to post day-2 predictions, rumors would be flying.
Define comical - After day-1 I realized (like Jim) that I had predicted too many goals for a first leg matches and thought I would be really clever to predict less goals the second time around. Hmmm - rumors are flying.
Enough about me though - I have some important news
Drum roll please...
I know what was wrong with Barcelona! Took me long enough right... Well the answer is quite simple, and he's pictured, stunning features and all. Use your imagination for a moment and take a trip with me. You're watching the game between Team A and Team B. Imagine Team A has the typical build-up in the offensive half. Team A is poking and prodding so to speak with midfield passes to the si, occasionally looking for the striker through-ball. Meanwhile Team B is fully settling back on defense and trying to maintain shape as the non-threatening passes go from sideline to sideline. Well eventually Team A tries the through-ball or cross and it never really threatened, defenders A handle it quite easily. So now A is on the run-out. They want to get out of their defensive half. Here is what you've seen before. At this moment, Team B invariably has a long pass up to just above half, to a striker checking back for the ball (kind of pictured, it's the best I could do). He's stationary and he has a defender always on his back. So from here a few things happen:
1) Several times the defender will come crashing into the back of the forward and the foul will be called.
2) Less clumsy defenders hold the forward and don't allow a turn. Team B's forward usually has to one-time the ball back to a winger, who then usually one-time's a long ball over the top to the other striker breaking. It doesn't really work that well. If it results in a chance on goal 1 out of 50 times the play is considered a success.
3) The forward kind of loses the ball from a half-hearted turn and the defenders pass it back to the sweeper and reload for the next build-up.
In summary its a difficult situation that almost never results in a "great" break-out. The forward can't turn, he also has midfielders from Team A crashing back on him as they retreat on defense and they are usually near the sideline. And even some times a third defender, knowing he has the passing lane down the sideline and willing to retreat anyway, will also be running at the forward. Here is where El Gaucho comes in.
Somewhere around 10 times I witnessed the outlet pass to Ronaldinho checking back. With a defender on his back and often times 2 other midfielders around him, he shed them all and found his midfielder (either Deco or Iniesta) with space and sometimes behind the cheating midfielders who thought they had Ninho's passing lanes cut off. He rarely had to pass it back into the defensive zone and almost always found a player running free or at least with time.
(Am I making any sense?)
This was a luxury Barcelona utilized extremely well. El Gaucho's progression allowed for overlapping runs on the opposite side (Puyol usually) as well as Thierry Henry to run with one less defender. It was Ronaldinho's phenomenal turn and pass that eventually resulted in Messi's first goal and I believe his control of the outlet that led to Henry's freedom to silence the crowd.
Ninho looked confused when he was to be subbed for Eto'o and he should have been - he was critical to Barca's build-up all game. I'll briefly take this segway to pose the question of why there has to be an "oddman" out. I realize none of the W-4 (world four) play any defense whatsoever but Gaucho can certainly play midfield with Henry, Eto'o and Messi up top or Messi can play wing mid as well. It clearly doesn't matter yet and it's truly horrifying to see Eto'o come in fresh with 30 to play but still.
In summary, Barcelona looked the scariest of all 16, 12 of which I saw play in entirety. 2 weeks can't come soon enough.