The Theater of Dreams has long ceased to be simply the home/shelter of Manchester United to become the allegory of what everyone who passes by wants to achieve. Tomorrow Barça dreams precisely of returning from Manchester with the ticket to the Europa League round of 16 come true. But its current reality is that it will have to be used to the full to interpret a theatrical function in which the absence of the main actors is not noticed. Because that’s what the game will be about, those who will act and those who won’t.
Barça arrives at the Old Trafford final without Gavi or Pedri. Without a player who puts his head before his leg in any divided ball and another who gives meaning to the Barca game. Nor will it be Dembélé, a loss that is penalizing him less than expected when he was injured.
Now those of us who are. Busquets returns from injury and usually suffers in round-trip contexts, a more than predictable script on Thursday against a team full of planes like Rashford and company.
The Barça DNA, since Cruyff’s time, has been marked by position play, creating superiorities and giving singular weight to the midfield. Seen what has been seen with the injured and the absent, perhaps, for once, his game has to be established in the areas. And that’s where Robert and Marc-André appear. Lewandowski and Ter Stegen. They are the two pieces on which Xavi’s team must be based. The German is performing at his best level, as before, and if it weren’t for him, the “unocerismo” to which Barça usually subscribes would not be such. In the territory guarded by Ter Stegen there is another link that has meshed perfectly. A piece that has been silently attached to Xavi’s 11: Andreas Christensen.
A player who does not have the exuberance of other center backs. He is not as flashy as Araujo can be, for example, but he is very correct in everything he does. Correct in the cut, in the clearance, in the correction and above all, reliable. So reliable that, if he is physically fit, the Egarense coach moves to one of the other central defenders on the side. The Dane is the covert. Of few words, at least with a microphone in front. On the field, he shows more than he talks.
His dance partner is usually Araujo, and between them they form that particular mix between two players who couldn’t be more different in execution but who, as they would say in Catalan, mix the seny and the rauxa. Good sense and outburst. The waltz and rock&roll. The teenager who sits in the front row of class, and the one in the last row. Something that could also apply to Pedri and Gavi, both absent tomorrow.
Let’s go back to the areas, that of Lewandowski. With Polish, appearances are deceiving. Without being at his peak, you can’t get lost with such a treacherous player in his natural habitat. A footballer that Barça brought from Munich to play in this type of scenario.
Ferran Torres will also be reinforced, who dreamed of endorsing his great game against Cádiz. Because as Cruyff said, “a pigeon does not make a summer”. If he will be the protagonist or a mere spectator, it is unknown.
And the ’10’? Barcelona fans are excited about the return of the best Ansu Fati. Accustomed to fulfilling dreams, Old Trafford can be one more. Xavi will have to decide between the seny and the rauxa. The four midfielders or a classic winger.
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