First off, I must apologise for the lack of content over the weekend but I was away.
To be exact, I took my family to Barcelona for a City break and to take in a game of football at the Camp Nou.
If you read Vital Norwich regularly, then you’ll know that I have a soft spot for FC Barcelona.
I made my first trip to the Catalan capital in 1999, the club’s centenary season and saw Barca beat Espanyol 4-1, Rivaldo got a hat trick and Luis Figo was sent off, along with an Espanyol player for swinging haymakers at each other. Pep Guardiola came on as a substitute.
Since then, I’ve made four other trips to see games, I’ve seen some of the world’s best players, like the De Boer brothers, Luis Enrique, Patrick Kluivert and Ronaldinho in his pomp. I made a couple of visits with mates and one with Mrs T but I’ve not taken my lad to a game before.
I’ve been promising to take him to see Lionel Messi play for about five years now and I figured that if I didn’t do it soon then he’d be retiring!
So, the first weekend of half term coincided with my rest days at work and a home game with Getafe.
I was a little concerned about the opponent as Getafe are a decent, mid-table side. Organised and with a reputation for being defensively sound and I wanted to see goals. As it turned out, that concern was well placed but the signs were aligned for that weekend, so we booked it.
We had a centrally based 4* hotel for a song, courtesy of Groupon and the same company also supplied tickets, which at 45 euros weren’t extortionate.
We flew on Saturday with an early start from Stansted at 8.15 via Ryan Air, who I swear I will not fly with again – yes, they’re cheap but the add-ons (like paying to sit together) even it out.
We’d booked tickets to visit the Sagrada Familia (Gaudi’s Cathedral) in the afternoon and it was cheaper than visiting The Shard in London.
As we were walking down the Passion Towers, my phone pinged to tell me that City were 1-0 down at Derby and a little while later, it pinged again to tell me that Nelson had missed a penalty.
D’oh! Cue groans from the whole family. Even at one of Europe’s cultural highlights, Norwich City were on our minds.
Later on we learned that James Maddison had secured a decent enough draw but it sounds like we should’ve won it, to me.
That night we ate Tapas at Casa Varela, a family owned restaurant, just a stone’s throw away from the hotel and it was delicious, highly recommended.
The next day was game day at Camp Nou and we were there a couple of hours before kick off to make the obligatory visit to the Mega Store and it is pretty mega.
Three floors and with every conceivable souvenir branded with FCB or Messi’s name on it.
Lots of people are appalled that Messi is paid 52m euros a year by Barca but when you consider he alone makes 150m euros for the club each year, then it does make financial sense. It boggles the mind though because all he’s doing is kicking a football.
Anyway, after an Estrella for me and a gin & tonic for the missus that was absolutely huge from a side street café, we headed inside the stadium.
The Camp Nou is old. It was completed in 1957 and last given a refurb in 2008 but it’s tired around the edges. It is the largest Stadium by capacity (99,354) in Europe and the second largest in the world behind the national stadium in North Korea(!) and we were sitting high. Higher than I’d been on previous visits but the view was still epic. A new stadium is planned in the next few years to replace the original Camp Nou.
The Barca line up contained Lionel Messi (phew) and Luis Suarez, along with Sergio Busquets and Philippe Coutinho.
During the game, the three subs were Andrea Iniesta (world cup winning scorer), Ousmane Dembele (130m euros) and Paulinho (ex Spurs).
Typically, this was the first time that Barca had failed to score in La Liga this season. Right from the off, Getafe were looking to waste time, it was like watching Middlesbrough!
There were several interesting aspects to the game though.
Every time the ball went out of play, a ball boy returned it to a player immediately. Before the ball had even touched the advertising hoardings after a scuffed shot, Ter Stegen already had another ball to take a goal kick, it was that slick.
Everyone knows that Barca’s game is based on possession and that was true here. The home side ended up with 79.2% possession. Remind you of anything you’ve seen closer to home?
It reminded me of Daniel Farke’s home tactics. If an offensive ball isn’t on, don’t waste it. Recycle the ball and look to build again. The opposition can’t score without the ball and neither can you.
Such was Barca’s pressing that Jordi Alba and Sergi Roberto were rarely playing as full backs, they were playing as extra wide men. Regularly, either Mina or Digne (the centre backs) were playing passes mid-way in the Getafe half with either Rakitic or Busquets dropping back to cover them.
The goal didn’t come though. Messi was superb. His eye for a pass and the ability to play it perfectly, so a player doesn’t break stride, in the blink of an eye was incredible. It’s just normal for him but that is why he’s the world’s best player.
He almost scored with a couple of decent strikes that were well saved and a Suarez header was brilliantly saved from a Dembele cross (the only good thing he did after coming on) at the end. Suarez did have the ball in the net on the stroke of half time with an acrobatic finish but it was ruled offside. That was as close as Barca got, with Iniesta saying after the game that he thinks that fighting on three fronts (La Liga, Champions League and Copa del Rey) is having an effect.
Barca beat Valencia in the 2nd leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final just last Thursday night.
It didn’t matter though, Barca are 7 points clear at the top of La Liga from Atletico Madrid with Real Madrid a distant fourth, 17 points behind.
That night we again ate well on Tapas from an excellent restaurant courtesy of Trip Advisor named ‘My Fucking Restaurant.’
Don’t let the name put you off, it is superb and the décor and ambience were on point. Check it out if you’re visiting.
So, once again, sorry about the lack of Derby County content but I was busy. You can be rest assured though that in the run up to Ipswich, I’ll be back on it.
On the ball City and Forca Barca!