Barca target double after emulating ‘Dream Team’
Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona side drew more comparisons with Johan Cruyff’s great Barcelona ‘Dream Team’ of the 1990s as they won a third consecutive league crown and reached a second Champions League final in three seasons.
Barcelona had a remarkable five Clasicos against rivals Real Madrid in the 2010/11 campaign and Guardiola outfoxed counterpart Jose Mourinho as Barca coasted to the league title and beat their foes over two legs in the Champions League semifinals.
Barcelona became the first side to win three back-to-back league titles since Cruyff’s Barcelona team, when Guardiola played as a defensive midfielder, won the third of four league titles back in 1993.
Argentine Lionel Messi, still only 23, was the inspiration once again for Barcelona scoring over 50 goals with 31 coming in the league as he retained the Ballon D’Or award for the world’s best player.
Messi scored three times against Real, including a wonder goal in the 2-0 Champions League semifinal first leg win at the Santiago Bernabeu when he ran half the pitch and dribbled past four defenders before finishing with aplomb.
Barcelona suffered an early setback in the league with a home defeat to promoted Hercules but thereafter they were the model of consistency with a 32-game unbeaten run in the league as they led from the front.
New signing David Villa, a 40-million-euro capture from Valencia, adapted well with the Spanish World Cup winner scoring 18 league goals in his debut campaign.
Villa was on target twice as Barcelona thumped Real 5-0 at Camp Nou in November - a match that will be long remembered by Barca fans as the Catalans gave Mourinho the heaviest defeat of his career.
The only disappointment was the Kings Cup final when they lost 1-0 to Real in extra-time but Barcelona had the ultimate revenge with a 3-1 aggregate victory in the Champions League semifinals.
The animosity between the two sides cranked up a notch as the two bitter rivals met four times in a crucial 18 days that would define their respective seasons.
Guardiola had seen his team knocked out by Mourinho’s Inter Milan outfit in last season’s Champions League semifinals.
But he settled the score 12 months later as he continued his impressive record against Real boasting six wins, two draws and one defeat from their nine meetings in all competitions.
Mourinho and Guardiola worked together for four years at Barcelona when the Portuguese was a translator for Bobby Robson but the two were embroiled in a war of words on the eve of the Champions League semifinal first leg in Madrid.
Guardiola, usually a reserved character, unleashed a tirade at Mourinho after the Portuguese called him ‘Pep’ using the informal ‘tu’ form.
“He (Mourinho) is the f....g man. I try not to play the game off the pitch,” fumed Guardiola. “He’s much better than me at it. I represent an institution that believes this is not the best way to do things.”
Barcelona did their talking on the pitch as they defeated Real 2-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu, their third successive win on the ground, and a 1-1 draw in the return leg saw Barcelona and Guardiola reach their second Champions League final in three seasons.
Barcelona defeated Manchester United in the 2009 Champions League final as part of a historic treble and the two will face off again at Wembley Stadium on May 29.
It is a fitting setting as Barcelona won their first European Cup in 1992 at the old Wembley Stadium with Guardiola lifting the trophy as club captain.
Six league titles as a player made Guardiola, a Catalan born and bred, a hero in Barcelona and his popularity is now reaching iconic status after guiding the club to the league title in each of his three seasons in charge.
Barcelona have now won five out of the last seven league titles to underline their supremacy and Guardiola insisted the domestic title was the most important piece of silverware despite the glamour of the Champions League.
“The league is the most important trophy of the season as it gives us more credibility,” said Guardiola. “It gives us the most pride and reflects the effort and hard work across the whole season.”
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