Futbol & Football: Things are getting Messi

     Great programs demand great records from their coaches. Solid programs can get by with a winning record, but top of the line teams expect hardware in their trophy cases. Look at Michigan and Harbaugh. Michigan has finished with good winning percentages, but when you continually come up short against Ohio State, lose the occasional Michigan State or Penn State game, lose the bowl game, and fail to make the Big Ten Championship, the program, the fan base, even the haters watching from the stands of other teams will all begin to criticize the coach.

     A household name (well, outside of the US) going through this process is Barcelona. The soccer club’s upper management put it bluntly: “[it’s] not enough to be competitive.” When you have arguably the best player to ever do it, and a handful of players who could make their case for top five at their position currently, the team needs hardware. Messi continues to defy his age, but other than his personal accomplishments, the team hasn’t dominated like they’re expected to.

     All the talent in the world can’t beat a truly cohesive team. When you combine both elements you get a team that sets the pace for the entire league, like (no, I’m not talking about the Lakers you silly Lebron fans) Liverpool. Of course top teams face the top performance from even the bottom most teams, but in Liverpool’s case, very few teams have enough in the tank to take them down. The only team that has enough firepower to pose a true threat is Arsenal.

     Unfortunately, Arsenal can’t contain Liverpool either, so whichever team has the better stroke of luck that day would come out victorious. Most soccer fans would call me crazy for saying Arsenal is the team that could beat Liverpool since their record is 6-11-6, instead of a team who has actually won a solid bit of games (see either Manchester squad). Middle of the pack teams have an edge when they play at their peak against an opponent who looks past them on the schedule. Liverpool will be fully prepared against a Manchester City (as seen by their 2-0 victory last week over the fifth ranked team in the league), but may let a couple slip against a hungry, offensive heavy Arsenal squad looking for a big win (the 5-5 draw earlier in the season proved this). Fortunately for Liverpool, they should be clear of Arsenal and this argument is purely based on principle; don’t sleep on middle of the pack teams.

     Kansas City’s professional football team lucked out, having the middle of the pack team they would face jump to national attention before their match. Tennessee managed to wreck havoc in the playoffs, to the Patriots chagrin, and perhaps was the most relevant team to prove my point. The Chiefs were only able to prepare and play to their potential in that game because they knew the threat the Titans posed at that point, but switch the Patriots for the Chiefs in that first game and I’m sure Patrick would be at home. Or maybe filming another commercial with Aaron Rodgers this week. Not sure you can ensure a broken heart though, and a heart breaking, hard to watch game it was for Green Bay.

     So the Super Bowl will feature two balanced teams and decently favorable quarterback play. While the 49ers quarterback completed only 6 passes against Green Bay (only attempting 8), Jimmy G. will have to channel his inner Tom Brady if he wants a ring on his own. Relying on the run won’t be enough against this Chiefs defense who stuffed Henry, letting up only 69 yards over the entire four quarters. In fact, their game plan against the 49ers may be extremely similar to yesterday’s; load the box, make your quarterback beat us with his arm. I’m not sure Jimmy can outplay Mahomes through the air, but if the Chiefs quarterback is the leading rusher again (particularly after having half as carries as the running back), then the Chiefs May be in trouble.

     There is one more thing working to the favor of the 49ers regarding that area: Nick Bosa. Garoppolo has similar stats to Mahomes in everything except interceptions. Mahomes as thrown only five interceptions compared to his 26 touchdown passes, but if Bosa can make him feel uncomfortable, squeeze the pocket, and make him get rid of the ball quickly the 49ers will be in luck. The next piece of the puzzle for the 49ers is Richard Sherman’s drive to once again solidify himself as the best defensive back in the league. Sherman covering the top option for Mahomes will even later the playbook for the Chiefs. I pray their offensive coordinator isn’t silly enough to call plays for Telce with Sherman covering him. Critical downs and game-altering plays need to be called for a different receiver or the Chiefs will have no shot at winning the game, even if they are favored (by one point).

     It will be a slug fest with brutal defensive play. In the end, the 49ers will be victorious. Mahomes will feel the pressure of the game in tough moments, he will feel uncomfortable. Garoppolo will use his New England experience and time under Brady’s tutelage to conquer the Chiefs defense. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jimmy G. talks to Brady or at least watches his film against the 49ers to prepare. I think ultimately the defense of the 49ers will be too much for the Chiefs in the end. San Francisco brings another Super Bowl to their city by defeating the Kansas City Chiefs 31-24. First half will be a showcase, but second half adjustments will make the difference.