Barca don’t have to have an easy ride

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TEN days have passed but the memory of Barcelona’s superlative performance still lingers.

Even Sir Alex Ferguson, a manager in whom defeat usually provokes the most miserly of emotions, felt compelled to confess that the conquistadors from Catalonia had given his Manchester United side a footballing lesson.

While those of us fortunate enough to have witnessed Pep Guardiola’s men gracefully garrotte England’s finest into submission en route to another Champions League triumph marvel, Ferguson and others charged with the task of beating Barca in next season’s competition fret about the challenge ahead.

Those working further down the food chain must also worry. After all, despite working on budgets smaller than Lionel Messi’s win bonus, supporters of clubs in League One and Two will now also expect their heroes to demonstrate similar artistry.

The Camp Nou blueprint is fast being adopted as a template for success at all levels. Irrespective of the tools at hand.

Stopping Messi, Iniesta, Xavi and Co, on May 28th’s evidence, seems nigh on impossible.

Nevertheless, for the likes of Ferguson and Wenger, devising ways of stifling their threat will have become an obsession by the time the competition proper resumes again later this year.

They will be encouraged by the fact that, for the opening 10 minutes of their Wembley showdown with United, Barca appeared almost human with Victor Valdes and Gerard Pique in particular burdened by nervous tension.

Not until David Villa, who since leaving Valencia now patrols the flanks with the same authority he oozes when deployed in his more customary central role, dragged a low shot just beyond Edwin van der Sar’s far post did they discover their rhythm.

My advice would be not to think too long or hard. Simply watch a re-run of Guus Hiddink’s Chelsea knock Barca out of their stride during that infamous semi-final at Stamford Bridge in 2009.

True, the Londoners failed to achieve the desired result. Largely, though, due to an eccentric referee.

Chelsea went one on one and trusted themselves to win their individual battles, thus removing the temptation to get dragged out of areas Barca could exploit.

No doubt Talking Sport’s advice will be scoffed at by Europe’s finest tactical brains. But, as Arrigo Saachi once remarked, you don’t have to have been a horse to become a good jockey.