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Location: Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, United States

"It little profits that an idle king, By this still hearth, among these barren crags, Match'd with an ag├Ęd wife, I mete and dole Unequal laws unto a savage race, That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me."

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The big ticket

I'm trying to conceptualise a TV ad. It starts like this.

First a long shot of the sun. Then we show random shots of Mercury, Jupiter, Saturn etc. They are all rotating and revolving. The earth too. We focus on the earth. Suddenly, the earth stop rotating. The lights in the background go on. A whistle blows. Deafening shouts of "Barca, Barca" all around as Ronaldinho kicks the ball. It is Barcelona v/s Chelsea tonight. Just a few hours away, the biggest game of the season so far, worthy of the Final is about to commence.

Barcelona have a vital 2-1 lead, with two away goals that they will carry with them to their own Camp Nou. Chelsea know the weight of defeat. Especially when they have lost in the semifinals in consecutive years. Chelsea must win tonight. They must score. And I will be praying against it.

For the second season running, Barca are the best team in Europe. By far. Chelsea's tactical play might win them league points and trophies in England. But their style and long-ball play are boring to watch. Coach Mourinho would reiterate that they play to win, not to entertain. Well, if I wanted to see a side winning, I would rather play the football games by EA Sports. Manchester United look like a haunted team. Arsenal even worse. And Liverpool are counting on luck to bail them once again.

The Italian game is hardly inspiring. They will give you sexy-sounding names -- catenaccio, for one -- that are high on tactics and low on entertainment. Juve, Milan, Inter, they aren't very different. Score one goal and defend like it is the end of the world. In Spain, many a feared side has dropped guard. Real Madrid look like a a team of stars who have run out of gas. Valencia and Deportivo sound like names from the past.

Barca offer the difference because they are out-and-out entertainers. They are like the typical Rajnikanth movie. Flair, finesse, style and sometimes arrogance. And who better to display all that than Ronaldinho - entertainer number one.

Chelsea and Barca met at the same stage last season. Barca carried a 2-1 win to Stamford Bridge. They were riding high on confidence. But Jose Mourinho pulled the tactical ploy of the year. Chelsea began the game with four strikers, and in the first 20 minutes, they lead 3-0. A stunned Barca managed a fightback. Ronaldinho converted a penalty and followed it up the most nonchalant goal of the year. A goal of such quality that tears involuntarily rolled down my cheecks. It was 2 AM then. John Terry ruined the party by heading Chelsea home.

This year though, the story is a bit different. Barca rocked the Bridge in the first leg. A similar scoreline, but this time, Barca play hosts in the return leg. The first game was awesome, but not without its share of controversy. Asier del Horno was sent off for a needless, stupid, clumsy, idiotic etc. challenge on a young Argentine boy called Lionel. True to his last name, this lad had messed up the hosts with some excellent runs, for which he won lots of praise, and comparison with the hitherto incomparable Wayne Rooney. He drew lots of catcalls too, most notably from a chronic whiner wailer called Jose, who felt that his team had been short-changed yet again by poor refereeing. Had it not been for his captain, Jose would have travelled to Barca facing a four-goal deficit.

Two weeks seem like a distant past. A new game. A new stage. The same actors. A raucous, partisan crowd. And two managers, radically different in legacy, approach and spirit. But one thing will remain unchanged - the will to win. I will support Barca, but as our own Ravi Shastri would repeat ad nauseum, "Whichever side wins or loses, it is the game of cricket football that is the ultimate winner!" Be there. Enjoy the beautiful game. This is the night -- glorious night!

Men to watch: Ronaldinho, Messi, Lampard, Terry.

Elsewhere

Juventus play hosts to Werder Bremen, thankful to their two away goals, and more so to the fact that Bremen could not manage more than 3 at home. A tantalisingly poised game. Juve might scrape through.

Villareal, hosts to Rangers, too have two away goals to their credit, and one less in debit. Can the Gers pull off an away win?

4 Comments:

Blogger Karthik said...

Yenda yen tensiona yethara? i want to watch all these matches. sadly, we don't have that stupid CAS.

3/07/2006 11:24:00 AM  
Blogger Vinayak said...

congratulations...looks like your team goes through :(

3/07/2006 07:05:00 PM  
Blogger airanand said...

riding on the wishes of many like you.. Barco is thru' and Ronaldinho stars as predicted.. but based on draw/and othe rexternal reasons... we have seen too many big teams being knocked out of this yrs Champions trophy.. so its almost a clear route to the title for Barca now.. will they make it??

3/09/2006 12:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Vijay Krishna said...

@KG: in that CASe, why don't you get a set top box?

@Vin: Thanks, I wish they go all the way

@Air: The draw for the next round might decide it all. Currently Barca, Milan and Juve are the favourites. If any two of these three clash in the quarters, it would mean that the other team has it slightly easy. But in the UCL, you never know. Every team is a potential dark horse - Benfica, Arsenal, Villareal, Lyon, Inter and Ajax.

3/09/2006 09:47:00 AM  

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