For so many years, Barcelona have talked about being an example to follow. Well, stand-in coach Jordi Roura left all that behind with his warning to Alberto Undiano Mallenco, the referee who takes charge of their Copa del Rey semi-final return leg against Real Madrid. In simple terms, Roura accused Undiano of being too lenient with Madrid when the clubs met in the final of the competition two years ago. Eventually won by Real, I personally remember the match as a good final. José Mourinho's men dominated the first half, Barça played sublimely in the second, Iker Casillas pulled off three memorable saves (for which Mou will always owe him a debt of gratitude), Pedro saw a goal disallowed for offside - "a matter of centimetres" according to then Camp Nou coach Pep Guardiola, who I understand did his military service in topography - and Cristiano headed in the extra-time winner.
It was a terrific game. There was little complaint from Barcelona, at least as little as can be expected from a losing finalist. Nevertheless, Roura has suddenly chosen to dig up the past and suggest Undiano let too much go. If you ask me, he's really complaining about the first leg of this year's semi-final. Barcelona left the Santiago Bernabéu with the renewed conviction that fouls had allowed Real to stop them playing, the hosts confident that not all their infringements could be punished. If a free-kick was awarded, a visiting attack would be snuffed out; if not, a dangerous Madrid counter-attack would be sparked. All in all, Barça's living nightmare.
So, Roura - it is not clear if he devised the plan alone or with his aides - has put Undiano under pressure before the game has started. But anyone can watch the 2011 Copa final again and see for themselves. The first and most vicious foul was perpetrated by 'azulgrana' midfielder Sergio Busquets on Xabi Alonso. It was a challenge that even now makes you wince. It may be true that a hard, physical Clásico favours Madrid more than their Catalan rivals, but Roura was misguided in the example he chose. What's more, I think he may have even shot himself in the foot by bringing all this up. Under normal conditions, his team would hold the advantage; having kicked up a storm like this, it lies with Madrid. Perhaps fear precipitated Roura's words.