Preview: Barcelona vs Panathinaikos – With a tinge of Inter Milan and a Herculean effort?By: Chris Paraskevas | September 14th, 2010
In truth, I’m resisting the temptation here to fill this rather hastily assembled preview with a whole heap of clever plays on words and football cliches, par example: Panathinaikos’ men will each have to put in 110% if they’re going to have a chance of walking away from the Camp Nou with a positive result or that they’ll require a Herculean effort to avoid embarrassment.
Of course, if you travel over to Ramzi’s colourful and quite outstanding Barcelona blog you’ll find – along with a beautifully titled match preview and insightful review of the Hercules game, all with some equally fascinating links within them – that things aren’t all that rosy in Cataluña, where the familiar square ball- square ball – square ball – square ball – square ball – incisive through ball into the boxfinished (supposedly) by David Villa, game plan hasn’t been ripping teams apart lately.
Indeed Hércules walked away from the Camp Nou with three points at the weekend in a match that I watched in order to forget the troubles of my beloved Newcastle United; it puts things into perspective when a squad that is significantly more talented suffers a home defeat by the same scoreline only a couple of hours later.
Now aside from the fact that there are obvious signs for all you prophets out there – I challenge anyone who reads this to find a Nostradamus prediction that can be misinterpreted to suit this match as you’ll probably find it – with Hercules of course being a Greek demigod and sharing the name with the side who most recently enjoyed success against Pep Guardiola’s men, there is legitimate tactical logic to suggest Panathinaikos could walk away with a big, big result here.
I for one have never been totally convinced by the aesthetically-pleasing Barca who to be quite frank, aren’t always that aesthetically pleasing and know how to grind out results in unconvincing fashion (it’s not as if they outplayed Manchester United when they lifted the UEFA Champions league trophy a little while ago and indeed probably could have been down one or two-nil early on in the match).
But I feel I’m in the minority, certainly in my own country where certain resident Australian analysts have built shrines dedicated to ‘the Barcelona way’ of playing football. In the name of being anti-social I’ve consciously chosen to go against the trend and root for the bad guys at times when it comes to watching the blaugrana.
In any case as a fan of Greek football I’m going to be right behind Panathinaikos despite my allegiance to AEK Athens in a couple of hours; I find no logic in not supporting fellow Greek teams on the continent regardless of the rivalry taken up domestically for the simple reason that we Greeks can’t afford to be picky when it comes to having representatives in Europe (usually numbering one or none these days in terms of the UEFA Champions League).
Regardless of all the recent hyper-analysis of Barca’s failings and flaws in their system, it’s hard to see Pana getting anything out of this match for the sheer fact that they’ll have a back-line with both Jean-Alain Boumsong (pictured) and Loukas Vyntra in it. If David Villa can’t score against what must be two of the worst defenders in Europe then he might as well retire…
Inter Milan provided the blueprint for success away against Barca in last season’s Champions League and it was an approach that was largely mirrored by Hércules at the weekend. Nikos Nioplias, a rookie manager but a talented one, would be wise to adopt a similar system but is surely aware that his side are rather more limited than the reigning European champions when it comes to defensive quality. So that aforementioned blueprint is probably about as useful as this one, the meaning of which won’t be lost on all you Mallrats fans out there:
PS. I’ll start to dedicate this section of The Offside to monitoring Greek performances in Europe if nothing else in an attempt to keep it alive, given the conspicuous absence of my fellow bloggers around here. I feel as though I’m doing a quite admirable job at flying the flag alone *applauds himself whilst still holding metaphorical flag*