Barcelona have won the treble twice this decade under Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique – but who would win if the 2010-11 team could face the 2014-15 side?
As football fans, one of our most enjoyable pastimes is debating how a vintage team of the past would compare against another legendary team – or a current one.
We’ve all had those arguments with our mates over a few pints in the pub, but they can never be settled.
Or can they? Well, no, but thanks to our friends at Football Manager, we can at least add some fuel to the fire. So, just for fun, we got them to simulate a game between Guardiola’s Barça and Enrique’s Barça.
Will MSN be too much to handle, or will the Xavi and Iniesta axis lead the old guard to victory? Let’s find out…
The opening minutes produced a smattering of chances for both sides.
First, Neymar found the side netting from the edge of the area before Suarez put a tame effort straight at the goalkeeper from inside 15 yards.
But Guardiola’s side soon gained a foothold in the game as David Villa forced a good stop from Claudio Bravo, the Chilean throwing himself down towards his bottom left post to parry Villa’s stinging effort round the post.
That paved the way for the opening goal of the contest as Messi produced a moment of genius for Guardiola. The diminutive Argentine jinked past two defenders and curled the ball past Bravo from just inside the area to put the 2010-11 team in front with just 20 minutes on the clock.
A second goal for Guardiola’s men followed just over 10 minutes later as David Villa played in Andres Iniesta through the centre of the pitch. Iniesta shook off the attentions of Javier Mascherano and drove a shot into the bottom left corner.
However, Enrique’s men grabbed a vital goal on the stroke of half-time to keep the contest alive. A Neymar corner was cleared only as far as Ivan Rakitic and the Croatia international produced a rocket of a shot that fizzed into the top right corner of Valdes’ goal.
The tempo of the second half was more restrained than the first as Guardiola’s side elected to control the play instead of committing numbers forward. Xavi sent a free-kick over the bar by a few feet in the only meaningful action of the opening minutes.
It was down to Messi to breathe some life back into the encounter as he played one-twos with Xavi and then Pedro before casually slotting the ball past the helpless Bravo to restore Guardiola’s two-goal cushion.
Rakitic and Iniesta began to find occasional ways through the Guardiola midfield as the game wore on, but Puyol and Pique’s positioning made it difficult for them to create any clear-cut opportunities and were often reduced to shooting from distance.
Neymar did give Enrique’s side a glimmer of hope inside the last 15 minutes when he beat Alves for pace, cut inside the area and powered his shot into the bottom right corner.
Unfortunately for Luis Enrique, Guardiola’s side found it all too easy to slip back into their strategy of possession retention and were able to see out the rest of the game with relative ease.