Absa Premiership

Recent defeats could spur Barca on against Sundowns

2018-05-15 14:28
Lionel Messi (AP)

Cape Town - It was a warning from one charismatic Spanish hero in "El Cid" that seemingly went unheeded by another during the soccer season now near completion with what has been termed The Nelson Mandela Centenary Challenge between FC Barcelona and Mamelodi Sundowns at the FNB Stadium on Wednesday night.

"Danger breeds best on too much confidence," was the sage advice offered in the literary classic penned as far back as 1636 - and which the mighty Catalan soccer giants ignored to their cost on two fateful occasions to mar what could have been a well-nigh perfect season for the team that won the La Liga championship by a metaphorical mile, as well as annexing Spain's two knock-out cup competitions.

In the first instance after Barcelona strolled to a 4-1 first-leg victory in Europe's Champions League against a competent, but out-classed Roma, an apparent nonchalant and blasé approach to the second leg resulted in them losing 3-0 and suffering humbling elimination on the away goal from the prized competition in which many had viewed them as favourites.

Then, on the eve of their hastily arranged, much-acclaimed, but in a number of respects ill-timed and curiously arranged encounter against Sundowns, the unforeseen calamity emerged for Barca whereby they found themselves floundering to a 5-1 deficit against modest, 16th-positioned Levante before going down 5-4 despite a belated late awakening.

And while Barcelona had already clinched the La Liga title sometime back, the defeat had huge consequences as they had been unbeaten after 36 matches in the 38-game La Liga programme and seemed all set to equal a momentous 88-year record of not losing a single game during a Spanish season - remembering too that when the record was set there were only half the number of the 20 teams now competing for the title.

It was a matter beyond some belief that Barcelona took the field with history of such a dimension beckoning without their amazing kingpin, Lionel Messi, considered widely to be the best player currently on the planet - and one of the greatest of all-time.

It seems the prospect of losing against Levante was the last thing Barcelona had on their mind and that with a contractual obligation to include Messi in the squad bound for South Africa, they believed they could comfortably afford giving their magnetic Argentinian maestro a break after a long season - and with the World Cup looming.

Now, in some ironic and obtuse way, there could be a backlash for Absa Premiership champions Sundowns, with Barcelona, no doubt, on guard to avoid a third, if less costly and high-profiled humiliation - even if their coach Ernesto Valverde suggested the game in South Africa would be something in the nature of a training outing and that Messi and other luminaries like Luis Suarez,  Andries Iniestia and Philippe Coutinho might only appear on the field for something like 45 minutes

All this, however, was expressed before the Levante debacle - and a totally different viewpoint might now have taken root - particularly if Barcelona take into account the significance of a game that is designed to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Nelson Mandela - whose greatness descends beyond the grave and is the reason for the match at FNB Stadium being staged at all at this particular juncture.  

 

Read more on:    mamelodi sundowns  |  barcelona  |  sy lerman  |  soccer
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