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Ah, So THAT’S What the Champion’s League is Like…

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This evening in front of a packed-to-the-top-row Artemio Franchi, Fiorentina played Barcelona (you’ve probably heard of them) in a friendly match in honor of the anniversary of the death of the Viola’s stadium namesake and the club’s former chairman. Barcelona, by almost every account I’ve read so far, absolutely schooled the Viola on their way to a 3-1 win, suggesting our boys in purple have a ways to go before they can ever be considered the cream of the Champions League.

First, in the interests of full disclosure (a rare trait among bloggers, mind you) I must confess that I saw very little of the match. Frustratingly, the match was not televised here in the states, even though a number of our soccer channels were showing “Barca Classics” today, some of them years old. So I couldn’t record the game. Instead, I tried to stream it online while at work, which met with rather lame results. First, because of various streaming issue, I missed virtually the entire first half while trying to find a site with a decent feed. I got most of the second half, but was interrupted a number of times by co-workers who came in with questions, a development I can hardly complain about since I am a paid employee. Regardless, all I really saw of the match was between the 12th and the 40th minutes of the second half, and even that was spotty. I was frustrated at missing so much of the match, but it is kind of a “live by tech, die by tech” sort of thing. It sucks to have all those bad feeds, but ten years ago I never would have been able to see so many regular-season Viola matches live, never mind a meaningless friendly in July.

That being said, I did see some good things. Pazzini’s goal was very well done, and I saw some excellent attacking ambition from Felipe Melo, Papa Waigo, Steven Jovetic, and Gila. It was also good to see Manuel Da Costa make an appearance. The defense did look soft, obviously, but it was up against an ambitious, attacking team that contained a number of impressive players, including, in Leo Messi, perhaps the best in the world. All this preseason I have been emphasizing that we cannot get too caught up in results; I want to suggest the same today. We were beat, but we were beat by a very, very good team, one that fielded a squad of stars even without the injured Sam Eto’o and the recently sold Rhonnie. (Incidentally, I also had a lot of fun watching Dani Alves with his new team. Alves is one of only a handful of players I really, really like who doesn’t play for Fiorentina. Go figure.)

In the long run, I think an experience like this can only help the Viola. Presuming they get through the qualifying stage (a big if, I know) of the Champions League, they will be placed in a group that will likely have at least one “superclub,” if not more. The Viola may have been spanked today, but perhaps they will be a little less intimidated when they face their next Barcelona (and hell, it could be the THE Barcelona) in a few months. It’s still the pre-season, and I still have a feeling the regular season is going to be a very special one indeed.

For a real, honest-to-goodness match report by someone who, you know, actually saw the whole game, please go here.

I’ll be back soon. Take care and Forza Viola everybody.