"You almost can't believe how the game changed and the way we reacted to it." - Rijkaard
I hate being right about shit like this... From Sunday March 23rd:
"I have complete confidence in the blaugrana fucking it up though, no doubt by losing away at Betis next week or something equally ridiculous."
And so it came to pass. I saw the first half of this debacle in work on Saturday and like AC Milan at halftime in Istanbul, thought that it was all done and dusted. Barça were playing well, moving the ball around quickly, creating chances and restricting Betis to long range efforts. Edu and Pavone, their two most dangerous players hardly had a sniff. It was to my great surprise to get in and see that that it was now 2-2 and that Betis had missed a penalty. There was of course, much worse to come.
Like the game at Valencia, it's very difficult to know where to start. The quotes after the match from the blaugrana players and staff were not encouraging, lots of "I don't know what the fuck happened". Even worse is today, Victor Valdes saying that "We have to completely forget the second half in the Ruiz de Lopera." No Victor, you need to remember it. You need to analyse it, figure out what went wrong, why your lot couldn't cope with their lot's swift counter attacking and pace. And ask why Edu scored the same gol he's been scoring all season against you. And why once Betis had equalised there was only ever going to be one winner, and it wasn't Barcelona. Too often this season the "we have to put this behind us" line has been trotted out after a defeat or scrappy draw. That's all well and good if you learn something from it but Barça have clearly learned nothing, nothing from last season's collapse, nothing from consistently snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. They just blunder forward, making the same mistakes over and over again.
So what's next? La Liga is gone. Second spot may be beyond the blaugrana if the Yellow Submarines keep up their current form (though they've been so up and down all season I doubt it) and tomorrow the team play German side Schalke, who must be feeling quite good about themselves right now. The Barça squad is still Deco-less and Brazilian waster Ronaldinho is out with some phantom injury or other. Otherwise the squad is as expected. Milito is back (for all the difference that will make), as is Rafa Marquez.
I have no idea how the game will go down. Schalke aren't a great side but they have fantastic home support in the Veltins-Arena and players like Ernst, Rafinha and Varela are excellent. Their young 'keeper, Michael Neuer, had a fabulous game against Porto in the last round too. Realistically a narrow defeat would be alright, 2-1 to Schalke maybe. Anymore and I'd almost write Barça off. They just look broken right now and I don't think that Frank Rijkaard is the man to fix them. I recall when his tactics, his substitutions used to change games and see his side pull games out of the fire. Now it's the opposite. I fear for Rijkaard should they get a kicking on Tuesday. There is much talk of Guardiola coming in to steady the ship. I would see that as a gross over-reaction but plenty of managers at the Camp Nou have gone for less.