Football is a results game

So last weekend’s El Clasico will be the last for the season after all. I am very happy that those simplistic predictions that the Uefa Champions League final will be El Clasico in Munich have been proved to be an illusion and there will, in fact, be no Spanish side in next month’s final. London giants Chelsea and the elite match’s hosts Bayern Munich saw to that.

I was telling colleagues in the newsroom last Saturday that I was hoping that neither Real Madrid nor Barcelona would make the finals. For the Catalan giants, it was simply because I thought they have dominated too much and also the due to the possible fairy tale march of Roberto Di Matteo’s men to the promised land when everybody had written them off.

For me, Chelsea’s sojourn in this year’s campaign reminds me of how my Liverpool progressed in the same competition in 2005. With every win, so-called experts felt the end was nigh and they would not progress further in the next round but they continued to confound the pundits by taking a step further and eventually winning the crown even after going 3-0 down by half-time.

This time, not many people saw the Blues overcoming Italian side Napoli even after registering a good result in the quarter-final first leg in Italy. When they managed to get through to the semi finals with defending champions Barcelona as their opponents, it was dead certain for most people that this would be the end of the road for Roman’s Army.

Now that they have managed to make the finals albeit amid accusations of playing negative football, people are now saying they would not stand the heat against Bayern, more especially given the fact that they would playing without five key players. What people are forgetting is that the Blues managed to hold the Arsenal last week without eight of the players that started last Tuesday.

And talk of negative football, football is a results game. Managers get or lose their jobs on the basis of the results they register and not necessarily the style they play. Jose Mourinho is regarded by many as one of the finest managers in the game but no one can tell me that his teams have always been entertaining. He has always chosen a style to suit his players and the opposition in question.

This is exactly what Di Matteo has been able to do. Where necessary he has played a free-flowing style like he did against the Gunners, but where he knew such an approach would be suicidal, he has parked the proverbial bus and the manner his side did it in both legs against Barcelona shows how tactically astute the young Italian manager is.

As they revel in their success on the continent, Chelsea know that they still have domestic tasks to accomplish. Their pursuit for next season’s Champions League place took a beating with last week’s draw but they will continue to fight in the league’s three remaining matches. Newcastle United, Tottenham Hotspur and the Arsenal have all stolen a march on them.

Of course, the biggest league match of the weekend is the Manchester derby on Monday. Only a fortnight ago, United seemed to have wrapped up the title having taken an eight-point lead. Five dropped points, however, have meant that a win for the Citizens at the Etihad Stadium will make Robeto Mancini’s side favourites. Exciting times these.

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