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Barcelona Couldn't Do It On A Wet Wednesday At Stoke

by James Al-Mudallal
10 October 2011 23 Comments

It has been said that the mighty Catalan side's undoing could come from a more physical side. Here's what we would think would happen on a hypothetical evening down at The Britannia...

Could the mighty Stoke be Barca's undoing?

It has been said that the mighty Barcelona’s undoing could come from a more physical side. Could Stoke City rise to this challenge?

We’ve all done it at some stage. Pose a hypothetical and often incomprehensible scenario to our fellow co-workers or a friend down the pub in order to back-up an already suspect football related argument. Compared a team of the past to one of the present, constructed a parallel universe where all shots hitting crossbar and posts go in, removed a key player from a club and modified their future results accordingly or, in Andy Gray’s case, cherry picked teams of vastly different stature and speculated on the outcome.

Last year, amidst the usual Barcelona hype came the gruff sound of a Scotsman questioning whether Messi and his band of nimble pass-master midgets could ever withstand the brutal, neanderthal-like tactics that occur on any given day at the Britannia Stadium against Stoke City. Granted his main point was that he would like to see how Barcelona would do in a whole season of the premier league, but the implication was there. He suggested that the Spanish giants’ style of play might not do quite as well in the English league.

In these past few weeks we have seen some curious things going on with the Catalan club. They have fluctuated between dominating performances and uncharacteristic slip-ups, beating Villarreal 5-0 one week, but then grabbing draws against Real Sociedad and AC Milan the next, only to respond with an 8-0 trouncing of Osasuna and confident 5-0 against Athletico Madrid. But the draw against Valencia and slim 1-0 win against a bottom of the table Sporting Gijon that followed show that Barcelona are not without their faults.

Now the obvious points still remain. Barcelona are unbeaten in their Champions League and La Liga campaigns this season and bar the Milan result, the draws occurred while playing away from home, one of which was against a very strong Valencia side. However, even taking this into account, question marks remain as to how Barcelona would do against some of the teams England has to offer, with Stoke putting forward a surprisingly compelling case.

We’ve seen the top English teams perform against Barcelona, but to watch a mid-table side who would have a completely different way of playing would be refreshing

One of the most enjoyable features of football as a sport is the possibility of an upset. A team can have eighty percent of possession and create dozens of chances throughout the ninety minutes but all it takes is one misplaced pass to put a striker through on goal and give him the chance to put a game to bed. Now, when talking about giving away possession, Barcelona naturally come fairly low down the list and Stoke most likely rank fairly high but in this scenario that is irrelevant. Stoke are destructive by nature, with Pulis having crafted a side who are masters at breaking up play even if that skill sometimes stretches as far as their own build up. In his five years in charge he has done a superb job building a solid team who are good at what they do, even though it goes against everything purists of the beautiful game like to see in a match. Keeping the ball does not seem to be a must for Stoke, with this season’s game against Norwich being the first time they recorded more than 50% possession in a Premier League fixture.

Instead, they use their physical presence to defend the often frequent attacks seen in their fixtures and then capitalise on set pieces and the aerial advantage they possess as a team. This is a stark contrast to Guardiola’s side, who pride themselves on the accuracy of their passes and the intricate one-twos that come before every meandering run Messi makes.

Picture the scene, A dark and rainy night at the Britannia Stadium. Woodgate clambers back to his feet and collects the miniature sized lump that is Pedro and sends him on his way after one of many last ditch tackles. Pulis’ men have seen hardly any of the ball and spent the majority of the match sliding around in the mud and chasing shadows when suddenly on the eighty-ninth minute a tired Eric Abidal concedes a throw in. Delap swiftly towels off the ball and hurls it into the box where Peter Crouch and Kenwyne Jones tower over their opposition. Valdes comes out to collect but Jones connects with the ball and sends it flying into Barca’s net.

Some would argue this would be an undeserved victory – Barcelona playing beautiful football only to be undone by a last minute scuffle in the box. But who said winning had to be pretty? Arsenal have played arguably some of the best looking football in recent seasons and what do they have to show for it? Meanwhile Mourinho’s 2010 Inter Milan side won the Champions League, beating Barcelona in the semi-final with a strategy that focused on not playing a beautiful passing game, instead taking the seldom chances on offer while defending exceptionally well. Stoke did exactly that in their recent league match against Manchester United and it paid off with a draw at Old Trafford. Meanwhile, Barcelona showed just how vulnerable they might be to Stoke’s set pieces when they conceded a late header from a corner in their Champions League game against Milan.

Until recently there was a greater chance of Andy Gray making a return to Sky Sports than Barcelona lining up next to Stoke on a football pitch. Now though, there is the possibility of the two teams meeting for the first time in a competitive game. Barcelona are the favourites to win this year’s Champions League and the Potters are progressing well in the Europa league and if both were to win their tournaments they would meet in next year’s UEFA Super Cup. We’ve seen the top English teams perform against Barcelona, but to watch a mid-table side who would be underdogs in every sense of the word and have a completely different way of playing would be refreshing. A team like Stoke would go about the game in a completely different manner to a Manchester United or Arsenal side and would recognise that sometimes beating the best requires playing ugly and doing whatever it takes to get the job done. It might even turn out that the key to halting Barcelona’s dominance is to take a leaf or two out of Stoke’s book.

While nothing can be taken away from what Barcelona have achieved in the sport’s history, La Liga does lack the quality that is needed to really test the ability of the Catalan club. Valencia, Malaga and Levante have all made good starts to the season but there is still little doubt in people’s minds that Barcelona and their fierce rivals Real Madrid will ultimately secure the top two positions by the summer. We only truly see Barcelona under pressure in the Champions League, which is one of the reasons we love the competition so much. Everyone enjoys watching a clear favourite struggle or even fall from grace. Perhaps Stoke are not the team for the job and maybe Barcelona’s class would lead to a thrashing but regardless of the outcome, it would definitely be a game not to miss.

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AJ Safado 7:36 pm, 10-Oct-2011

They beat the snot out of ManU twice in the Champions League final. What makes your think Stoke is in the same class as ManU? Articles like these make the English look like the retards of the world.

Jean 7:41 pm, 10-Oct-2011

Childish article. How dumb can you be to write this crap, and why does Sabotage Times publish it, is there no quality control at all? Depressing.

football 7:48 pm, 10-Oct-2011

This is boring drivel

Tom Okker 7:54 pm, 10-Oct-2011

Barcelona would bum them senseless. It would be fuckin great.

FCBarca 8:54 pm, 10-Oct-2011

More English refusal to concede Barcelona's hegemony You lot invented the sport but the class of the sport lies outside your borders

Bill Murray 9:14 pm, 10-Oct-2011

I'd love to see Barcelona humiliate Stoke and their moronic fans. They epitomise everything bad about English football.

Mr Controversial 9:40 pm, 10-Oct-2011

Stoke drew with Man Utd at the Britannia Stadium not Old Trafford get your facts right, Fuck sake! Oh and Bill Murray are you jealous that Stoke fans are the loudest and proudest in the Prem?

Biolaxico 9:58 pm, 10-Oct-2011

Why pple are comparing barca wit stoke dey are not on d same level even dare king in pre-ship.barcelona defeat man u at wembley stadium.

Messiah 10:08 pm, 10-Oct-2011

Three teams have won the premier league since 1995... it's just tiring to read these comparations built on a feeling of inferiority. Right now Barca is the best team around and the best in ages, and real madrid is the most expensive one. It's a unique situation and Doesn't mean you can underestimate valencia Sevilla villareal atl Madrid etc. Little indicate that liverpool tottenham etc are superior to them.

KLM 10:35 pm, 10-Oct-2011

zzzzzzzzz...Stoke get too much praise Barca are brilliant team who would hammer them...maybe should get people who watched football pre Sky to write about it and then we wouldn't have to put up with this rubbish

Michael 10:41 pm, 10-Oct-2011

What Tom said, we saw Celtic line up against Barcelona recently and try the same tactics as Stoke did - they got dicked, twice. Without the quality you won't beat Barca, and Stoke don't have quality. I fucking hate Stoke.

Probyboy 10:55 pm, 10-Oct-2011

As a Stoke fan I do not kid myself that we would beat Barcelona and nor would anyone within the club. Barcelona are not just a brilliant attacking side, they are fantastic at keeping the ball AND getting it back when they lose it. And unlike Arsenal, they don't get bullied easily. Not a contest

anon 10:59 pm, 10-Oct-2011

Jesus these comments make me feel like im reading an article on yahoo or something, it's a joke people make since Andy Gray questioned Barca's ability to do it at the highest level (the Britannia on a rainy weekday). oh how i love barca 'fans' on the internet

j Jack 11:52 pm, 10-Oct-2011

Frig me, Stoke couldn't beat Swansea. Truly awfully to watch.

Rebellious Jukebox 7:22 am, 11-Oct-2011

"the brutal, neanderthal-like tactics that occur on any given day at the Britannia Stadium against Stoke City" - lazy repetition of the boring cliches about the mighty Potters. Having said that, it is a sign that we are being taken seriously as a Premiership team that such articles are being written at all? From one of their "moronic fans"!

Mr. Smart author 11:10 am, 11-Oct-2011

Stupid author

TubesSCFC 1:23 pm, 11-Oct-2011

Stoke fans do not kid themselves that we have anything near the quality of Barcelona. They play better football than anything in the premier league, and have ripped apart the very best of English teams in recent years. However, Stoke have lost only a single home match in 2011, and are a match for anyone at the Britannia stadium, where the pitch is small, and we press teams high up the pitch. We are without a doubt the most organised team in the premier league, and a huge amount of time is spent in training working on shape. No-one is trying to to kid ourselves that we are anywhere near the team Barcelona are in terms of footballing ability, but is there a chance we could beat them at ST4? Of course there is, that's football.

Leave My Arsalona 2:57 pm, 11-Oct-2011

I agree with Tubes. Article was funny and it's not saying that Stoke would beat them, it's saying it'd be a good game to watch and they'd probably try a different approach to anything else we've seen. Plus it's footy, anything can happen.

Gunner4Life 8:34 pm, 13-Oct-2011

Barcelona would DESTROY Stoke! Come on, this article is such a waste of time. Now if you're asking the question whether Barcelona would fair well in the Premier League in general I would honestly say they would probably win it, would be guaranteed to be in the top 3, but would probably need a deeper squad because the physicallity of the EPL would take a much heavier toll on their players than La Liga does. That, however, doesn't negate the fact that the current Barca crop are the best on the planet, possibly in history, and would crush the likes of Stoke in the EPL. Sincerely,

Rebellious Jukebox 6:00 pm, 18-Oct-2011

As a Stoke fan I would approach this hypothetical game in the expectation that Barcelona would win; I would not however expect them to destroy us because of our excellent organisation, quality defence and goalkeepers. I would also expect them to beat Arsenal given that their defence is somewhat shaky!

garsdale 10:13 pm, 1-Jan-2012

A VERY PROUD NOT SWEARING STOKE FAN WOT A LOAD OF COBBLERS YOU ALL TALK. WE NEVER EXPECTED TO DO WELL IN THE EUROPA LEAGUE. BUT WEVE DONE BRILL & COMING UP FROM THE LOWER DIVISIONS & STILL THERE & IN 8TH PLACE BRILL. THEN TO GET NKOCKED OUT OF THE FA CUP ONLY BY A CLUB THATS GOT MORE DOSH THAN SOFT MICK. SO WHERE WEVE COME FROM TO WERE ARE NOW. PULIS, COATES & THE BRILLIANT I SAID BRILLINT STOKE ARMY OF FANS, THE MANCHESTER CLUBS WENT OUT OF THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE WITH THERE TAILS BETWEEN THERE LEGS .SO YOU MORONIC RENT A MOUTHS & YOU NO WHO YOU ARE, SO GERRA LIFE & STOP MAKING ME LAUGH SO MUCH

garsdale 3:32 pm, 2-Jan-2012

bill murry , J Jack, micheal ,tom okker. the last 4 years were we were were we are now wot weve done who weve beat top names we havent got millions like barca but ill tell you something you moronic morons we would give em a game that they wouldnt forget & who nos we just might beat em theyd be more scared of us cuz we would stuff it up em you bunch of arseholes hahahahahahah. & mr controversial wot you said was brill i couldnt said it any better good on ya stokie the red striped army

Lantern 7:16 am, 24-Feb-2012

Well, today we got the closest answer to whether Barcelona could live with Stoke on a wet blustery Wednesday evening. Valencia is not quite Barcelona, but it's as close as we're going to get for our illustration. And the answer is as we suspected all along -- hyperbole aside, Stoke's style is awkward for all comers, but generally speaking, they do not have enough class for the truly top teams. Valencia is one notch below the top and they narrowly won 1-0. Twice. Barca would do somewhat better, but Stoke won't be humiliated -- probably a 4-0 aggregate over two legs. All is well, people. No need to get your panties in a knot.

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