No miracle for Barcelona

Barcelona’s hopes of a Champions League title in Luis Enrique’s final season as manager came to an end with a 0-0 draw versus Juventus in their quarter-final second leg on Wednesday night at the Camp Nou.

It was always going to be difficult task for the Catalonians after last week’s 3-0 defeat in the first leg, and despite some decent looks, Barcelona never truly threatened Gigi Buffon in the Juventus goal. The Italians executed their game plan to perfection by setting up a rock-sold defence that never wavered.

For Barcelona, it was a spirited performance in which they never gave up, but unlike the fragile PSG defence, scoring three goals against a Juventus team that have only conceded twice in the entire tournament was too big of an ask.

Barcelona manager Luis Enrique went with a full-strength starting XI in a 4-3-3 formation, shelving the 3-4-3 that he opted to use in the first leg. Meanwhile, Juve boss Max Allegri used the same XI that triumphed decisively in Turin last week.

It was apparent from the start that Juventus were going to have their chances early on, as Barcelona were forced to leave themselves open in the back in order to try to score early. Gonzalo Higuain and Juan Cuadrado each came close to goal, but it was Lionel Messi who had the match’s first real chance when a loose ball fell to him but his shot veered wide right.

Barcelona were trying everything to breach the Juventus defence, but led by savvy veterans Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, it was going to take something special to get the better of the Italians’ back-line.

Most of the Barcelona attack was aimed at Juventus’ right flank, where former teammate Dani Alves and Cuadrado were stationed, but Luis Enrique’s men lacked that final ball to make a difference, and slowly but surely Juventus killed off the rest of the half without sustaining any damage.

Juventus went for the kill at the beginning of the second-half, and Cuadrado could have ended the tie, but his right-footer went whistling wide of the far post. Messi looked to respond and had two shots at Buffon’s goal from outside, but missed the target on a trio of occasions.

Just shy of the hour mark Luis Enrique made his first change, introducing a fourth forward, as Paco Alcacer replaced Ivan Rakitic. Barcelona had the lion’s share of possession and started creeping closer to goal, while Juventus were content to sit back and play to their defensive strength.

Messi’s second good look at goal came shortly thereafter when Buffon was off his line, and needing only to guide a volley past two Juventus defenders for a goal, the Argentine instead fired over the crossbar.

The missed chance summed up Messi’s frustration on the day. But much of that had to do with the blue-collar Juventus defence. Neymar was never allowed a moment’s peace when over the ball, while there were two or three Juve shirts swallowing up Messi any time La Pulga tried to set foot in the area.

On this day there would be no late miracle as Barcelona’s European campaign quietly came to a close, but the effort given was still appreciated by those inside the Camp Nou, who serenaded their team off the pitch despite the disappointing elimination.

Next up for Barcelona is El Clasico on Sunday against Real Madrid.

 

Marca