Competition
  • Premier League
  • Liga Portuguesa

Yes, Pep can, in three months and without Messi...

How much football has changed. Manchester City played more than ever in their own half and, most surprisingly of all, there was not a single whistle of discontent from the stands in the Etihad Stadium. The City fans accepted that this approach would serve to create a sense of authority early on (or to serve some purpose… not every side is capable of decoding Barcelona), and, depending on how you pressure the opposition or bring the ball out from the back, a sense of how everything is going is created. Today, the emotional bravery that so affects players has as much to do with that as with carving out chances at the other end.

Pep's route map

But the fact was that one team had Leo Messi and the other did not, and that appeared to be sufficient for the first hour. Until they scored, City had barely seen the ball. And then Barcelona decided to hand it to them. Pep Guardiola knew that the route map to follow was that of the opening hour at Camp Nou and his side took advantage of Barcelona believing the job was done to revisit that plan: his players stole possession, ran themselves in to the turf, played aggressively and showed a lot of courage. It worked a treat and the debate over Guardiola has taken on a different slant: in three months, and without Messi, Pep can.