Hardly a day goes by when Jose Mourinho fails to issue a comment digging at an opponent. Killing two birds with one stone, however, is somewhat of a new thing for the Portuguese schemer.
On Tuesday he made that happen when he noted Manchester City chances to progress to the Champions League quarter-finals due to this being the worst Barcelona team in a long time.
“Of course, by history, Barcelona is the favorite,” the Chelsea manager explained in an interview with ITV.
“But this Barcelona, this season, is showing that it is not the same in previous years.
“Of course they have [Lionel] Messi, he is special, and they have more than him. But I think this is the worst Barcelona of many, many years – so City have a chance.”
Translation: If City fail to advance, they will have squandered a golden opportunity. If City advance, it won’t be that big a deal. These are the options because Barcelona, well, they just aren’t that good anymore.
Whether Mourinho plots these statements long in advance or was born into the dark side and they simply fly off his tongue on cue, we may never know. But his ability to use the media to his advantage remains unparalleled in the footballing world. The 51-year-old is omnipresent.
But are his assertions meritorious?
Given his four year assistant manager stint at the Catalan club and his three years in charge with Real Madrid, he certainly knows Barca better than most, although his bias is obvious.
Barcelona are currently in the top spot in La Liga, even on 60 points with 2nd place Real Madrid and 3rd place Atletico Madrid, enjoying a size-able goal difference on each (eight and nine, respectively). Few question the strength of the Blaugrana’s attack with Lionel Messi back fit, Alexis Sanchez blossoming, Neymar enjoying a fruitful start to his career in Spain and the likes of Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas giving manager Gerardo Martino plenty of attacking options.
So while it would be difficult to definitively say this is a weakened Barca attack, the defense is a different story. At center-back, Gerard Pique has suffered an underwhelming/mistake-prone season, Javier Mascherano remains a constant wildcard, Carles Puyol is aging and rarely plays, while Marc Bartra is a work in progress. Jordi Alba and Dani Alves remain superb in the full-back positions but their natural tendency to attack is now limited due to the center-back issues.
Despite Barcelona’s perceived weaknesses, however, they remain the bookie’s favorite to march on to the Champions League quarter-finals. Even with today’s match being held at the Etihad Stadium, Vegas has Barcelona nearly twice as likely to win this game as the Citizens.
Apparently they forgot to consult Mourinho.
Kick-off is today at 2:45pm ET.