It was a “King’s Cup Rematch” with Barcelona again facing Valencia the team they had just recently eliminated at the semi-final stage. The semi-final win for Barcelona was achieved in emphatic style and a place in the final achieved. The objective in this game was more basic – make sure that the gap with league leaders Real Madrid did not grow even wider.
There was much speculation all week about who Guardiola would select to replace suspended defenders, Dani Alves and Javier Mascherano. His choice of Puyol and Pique, brought varied responses from amongst Barca fans.
Just a few weeks ago many felt the Puyol/Pique combination was meshing nicely but a couple of poor displays and some doubts quickly bubbled to the surface once again.
When Valencia took the lead in the 7th minute, even more questions arose. However, as we have often seen before, Barcelona performs better when under pressure. As soon as Valencia opened the scoring, the home side started pushing forward looking for an equalizer.
But within quarter of an hour, star striker, Lionel Messi struck with two goals in 5 minutes and turned a deficit into a lead. Fans’ initial fears evaporated.
Barca continued to push forward but wasted numerous chances they created. Valencia goal keeper Alves denied Barcelona on at least three occasions, displaying tenacity and patience in the net. At the other end of the field, Victor Valdes didn’t have much to do, as Barcelona camped in the Valencia half.
The second half saw Barcelona turn chances into goals with Messi completing his hat-trick and then one more for good measure. The final cherry on top was a goal from Xavi. The game could not have gone any better for Messi. It was his 200th appearance for the team, and one that showed why he is considered the best in the world by millions.
Post game, a timid and shy Messi stopped and stated that it was not about him, but the team is of greater importance.
Guardiola praised the display from the Argentine striker and said that he has no doubt that Messi will go on to break the all time goal scoring record, set by Cesar. Messi is only 12 goals shy of a record we could see broken before the start of April.
Guardiola has been hounded by the press all week on whether he has yet to make a decision to stay with the club, or seek a fresh challenge elsewhere. Mum is the word from the Guardiola Camp, but Pep did give the reason for his delay in making a decision, “I have to feel it. It’s as simple as that”.
Perhaps another Champions League may be enough for Pep to “feel” the magic.
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