Pep Talk 20: Champions missing on Champions League decider night

I cut off all my football channels once the domestic league season got over. I didn’t see any point waiting for two weeks to see the 2017/18 UEFA Champions League final to be played out between the third placed team of one league vs the fourth placed team of another league. Whosoever wins, wouldn’t be the best team of the year anyways. FC Barcelona and Manchester City completed domestic doubles and historical milestones to finish the year as the best two teams.

Missing Manchester City & FC Barcelona

Both these teams should have been there sparring yesterday. Barcelona had just one bad game entire Champions League campaign. They had smashed Juventus, Chelsea, Roma (in the first leg) en route and deserved a better ending. Manchester City were undone by rubbish refereeing over two legs played at Anfield and Etihad. With VAR it should have been 2-2 at Anfield and 2-0 at Etihad, by half time. I missed Pep’s team on the final night of the football season. Before the advent of the season Manchester City had thrashed Real Madrid 4-1 in a pre-season friendly.

One big piece missing in Guardiola’s ManCity

Pep Guardiola has one big area to work. That his team has no business giving away three goals within 25 minutes – happened last season several times, this season twice at Anfield and once at Etihad. His team need the steel, nerve and experience to win knockout games, to not get reckless vs a Wigan, to hold onto 5-3 leads away from home (vs Monaco 2016/17 Champions League). Pep has mentioned purchasing two players over the summer – they better be ones who have big stage experience, who have played and won Champions League knockout games. That one big missing piece.

Two attacking teams played the Champions League Final

Once the Champions League final got over, my timeline was filled with individualistic feeds. The discussions were all about individuals. It almost seemed like a boxing tournament got over. Personality targeting is now getting bigger than the team, event or sport.

All the talk today is either overpraising Bale (who had one lucky goal); mocking Karius for one bad day; targeting Ronaldo for an unexpectedly silent game; and abusing Ramos for his foul on Salah. Had Varane made that same foul on Milner – this wouldn’t have made any news. As a neutral the foul was routine to what defenders do. People who defend ‘park the bus’ football, physical football have no business going overboard the other direction today. Salah missing the World Cup (if that happens) is as bad as Dani Alves, Manuel Neuer, Laurent Koscielny or Alex Oxalade-Chamberlain missing.

Real Madrid 2014-18 still < The Galacticos

Real Madrid have won their third consecutive CL. That’s big. They are unarguably the masters of Champions League knockouts. The confidence levels are so high that their second string team may win it too. It’s this big match winning mentality that Manchester City needs. Yet, this Real Madrid team with four Champions League trophies in five years is yet to be counted at par with the Galacticos of 2000-2006. Leave alone being compared to other great club football teams of the bygone era. It further underlines the need to grind out wins in the season long domestic league. The best team of any year must have the domestic title at the least.

Thank you Klopp

Liverpool overachieved this season. They underlined attacking football wins and thrills. It has been a big year for Liverpool. But it was clear without the Anfield advantage they are far from making any serious dent in competitions. They were extremely lucky with decisions (vs Man City) and with the draw to make to the final (didn’t face any other big team). We hope to see more concrete progress from Liverpool and Madrid next year, domestically. Liverpool can’t be surviving off with one great season in five years. They deserve better; their fans too.

It was fitting that the club football season ended with a sumptuous goal. Awaiting the next season. Off course, in between there is this small matter of World Cup 2018, Russia!

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