Posted by News Express | 12 April 2017 | 1,857 times
Mighty Barcelona on Tuesday night saw their Champions League hopes hit hard after a string of strange selections from their coach and a 3-0 loss in Italy
There was a feeling of déjà vu. After their 4-0 defeat at Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16 of the Champions League, the Blaugrana produced a similarly dreadful display away to Juventus on Tuesday. And this time it will be much more difficult to turn it around.
Barca famously thrashed the French champions 6-1 at Camp Nou in March to advance against all odds to the last eight, but a loss like that versus the Bianconeri would surely be harder to overturn and Italy legend Dino Zoff told Goal in the build-up: “There’s no way Barcelona could come back from 4-0 down against Juventus.”
They do not have to, but 3-0 is almost as disastrous for the Catalan club and in many ways, it seems the PSG comeback has masked some serious issues for Luis Enrique’s side – and one of those is the coach himself.
Luis Enrique won the treble in his first season as Barca boss, claiming La Liga, the Copa del Rey and then the Champions League in Berlin with a 3-1 win over Juventus. Two years on, however, this is not the same side and that showed against PSG.
The summer signings were not good enough and at times, Luis Enrique has been too stubborn as well. For this match, he again selected the 3-4-3 system that has served the side so well in recent weeks, yet the presence of Jeremy Mathieu in defence was baffling.
The French defender backtracked as Juan Cuadrado ran at him and passed inside for Paulo Dybala to turn and fire the first goal after just seven minutes. It was not his fault, but the action summed up his contribution: far too passive.
Dybala then fired home a super second, but was given time and space to shape and shoot in the Barca box and again the defence was far too slow to cut out the danger. And at this level, those mistakes are punished – just as they were at the Parc des Princes.
Mathieu was hauled off at half-time, just as he had been at Malaga on Saturday. With Jordi Alba available and Javier Mascherano able to play in a three-man back line, his was a strange selection. But what followed was equally bizarre.
With Mathieu brought off, Luis Enrique sent on another of Barca’s much-maligned players this season: Andre Gomes. The Portuguese midfielder is not a bad player, but he has simply not adapted to Barcelona and has been present in all of the team’s poorest performances in 2016-17.
Luis Enrique was asked about the former Valencia man in the pre-match press conference and called the journalist in question “pathetic” and “deplorable”, but his player did little to prove the doubters wrong in the second half in Turin. Giorgio Chiellini headed a third goal and Barca barely reacted in midfield – although Luis Suarez squandered a good chance after he was set up by Messi (and Andres Iniesta had earlier missed another).
Messi, Suarez and Neymar usually get Barcelona out of trouble and with those three in the team and Busquets back for the second leg, the Catalans will have a chance of turning this around again. But Luis Enrique’s stubborn selection cost the Catalans dear in this match and Juventus will not fold as PSG did at Camp Nou last month.
That comeback was wonderful, of course, but after this loss there is the feeling that Barca have now used up their nine lives in the Champions League this term. After all, two historic turnarounds is a lot to ask – even for a team like this one.
•Adapted from an analysis by Goal.com.
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