> at Camp Nou on February 26, 2013 in Barcelona, Spain.

The Lead

Football, the tactics gurus say, probably correctly, I don’t know, is about a constant search for space. And according to Zonal Marking’s Michael Cox, Jordi Roura wasn’t exactly up to the task of searching it out:

It’s worth remembering why Barcelona find themselves in this situation – their manager is recovering from cancer, and [Jordi] Roura haw found himself in a job he doesn’t want, forced to cope with pressure and responsibility without warning. It would be extremely harsh to criticise him strongly considering the circumstances – it’s more polite, perhaps, to simply say that Barcelona are missing Tito Vilanova and his tactical ability, particularly his ability to change matches in-play, which was apparent even in Guardiola’s reign.

The danger here of course is to lift up this result and the first leg round of 16 loss as a “realignment,” because, as Cox argues, the Iniesta/Fabregas dynamic is quickly transforming into the Catalan equivalent of Lampard/Gerrard. Matter and anti-matter, two strong particles that when in close proximity have a tendency to smash into one another and explode, allowing Real to maintain a dangerously high defensive line.

There’s always a collective impulse in football to want to hail every upset a tectonic shift in football’s power map, as they did when Chelsea beat Barcelona in the semi-final of the Champions League. Last night at the Camp Nou sure felt like one, particularly in the smoke-filled glow provided by flares in the Madrista end.

However, if Barca has lost its primary tactical leadership, then the club may be at risk of decline. And so now the very serious discussion begins: if not Jordi Roura, then who? And how soon?

England

Rodgers says Sterling suffering from fatigue.

Benitez insists team united despite recent spate of words.

Swansea in the process of signing a new deal with Laudrup.

Italy

Arturo Vidal makes clear he wants to stay at Juventus.

Paolo Maldini aquitted of tax fraud.

Lazio could play its next Europa League game behind closed doors.

La Liga

Alba says defeat to Madrid will only make Barcelona stronger.

Martins wants out of Levante, may head to the Seattle Sounders.

Germany

Freiburg and Wolfsburg advance to semifinals in DFB Pokal.

Dortmund’s mascot surprises Bayern shop with a visit ahead of Pokal quarterfinal.

Bit and Bobs

Vanity Insanity: Balotelli builds a life-size statue of himself.

Ouch! Player loses teeth after mouth and foot collision.

Beckham to make his first start for PSG.

Thanks to Alima Hotakie for compiling today’s links.