El Centrocampista

¡DESTRUCCIÓN! – Guardiola’s men do their talking on the pitch as rivals slip up.

After two draws on the bounce, the usual cries of “crisis in Catalunya” were being bounded around in the Spanish press this week.

Pep Guardiola, in his regular, composed manner, simply praised his players and trusted them to respond on the pitch. And they did.

Guardiola again opted for his attack heavy 3-4-3 formation, without a traditional centre forward, nor, at times in the second half, an out and out centre back.

The constant movement and intelligence on display from his players was frightening, and often incredible.

Barça dominated the game so much you actually began to feel sorry for Osasuna, especially as they at least intended on having a go (and indeed, on another day might have scored one or two).

Cesc Fabregas and Lionel Messi are working hard to prove that in football, a long time is no time.

Their understanding of each other’s playing style, strengths and similarities seems to be as fresh in their mind as they days when they played together in the Juvenil team.

In Fabregas, Barça have done the unthinkable and improved on what seemed like an unbeatable formula.

Barcelona gave the perfect response to their doubters as they demolished Osasuna 8-0.

With a second resounding success via the 3-4-3, Guardiola must be seriously considering deploying this formation away from home, and in a different league where points weren’t quite so valuable as they are in Spain, you would imagine he would be doing so soon.

I won’t retread old ground here, but Guardiola needs to contemplate using this system on foreign ground in order to test its real worth.

If Saturday’s performance was anything to go by, it is a system that plays exactly to Barça’s best.

Even more so as Dani Alves was incorporated perfectly into the line-up.

The lack of room to accomodate the Brazilian in the new system has been something many pundits have touted as a potential trump card. It was not to be the case.

A solid display by Carles Puyol will please Barça supporters and irritate their aggressors.

When Puyol plays, generally, Barça win.

The captain looked fresh and is already working towards his best.

His ability to organise the back line prevented any potential holes in the blaugrana armour.

This was exemplified by the manner in which, upon his substitution, the defence looked notably frailer.

Puyol’s true qualities lie both on the ball and as a leader.

Even Jose Mourinho must be ruing his petulant comments midweek about Madrid’s “relegation battle”, as Real’s loss to Levante has now handed the advantage to Catalunya.

Let us not forget Valencia in this equation of course, and remember that their ability to not only win, but also win without performing well at times, is the true mark of a top team.

Barcelona will be looking to switch roles with their neighbours when the two sides meet in the next league encounter, and I expect Guardiola will take the league leaders very seriously.

Pep Guardiola as a player and manager prefers to wax lyrical on the pitch, with the ball.

This is even more admirable considering his natural ability to speak well and inspire (I recommend seeking out his speech upon receiving an honorary medal from the Catalan Generalitat this month).

With the footballing master class on show against Osasuna, Guardiola and Guardiola’s Barça continue to re-define the assumptions we often make about the game and how it should be played.

The real test will come with Valencia however, in what will no doubt be a competitive and fierce encounter.

Particularly when Valencia’s modern hero, Rafael Benetiz, will be present in the stadium.

The Valencians will hope to impress their old boss and prove the worth of their current crop against the best.

As if they needed any more motivation than they already have!

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