With the numbers in hand, it could be argued that Barcelona’s defeat in Turin is less damaging than last February in Paris against PSG. But on the level of sensations, the one in Italy is much more painful even after conceding that Luis Enrique’s players played even worse in France than last Wednesday. A déjà vu was on the menu when Barcelona came up against Juventus in the first leg of the duel for the quarterfinals of the Champions League, where the Vecchia Signora gave a resounding 3-0 beating to the Catalans, bringing to mind what had happened to the Blaugrana against PSG.
In contrast to what happened in Paris, the Old Lady was pragmatic and pressed when it was necessary, until the point when they were already 2-0 up with barely 30 minutes played, thanks to the goals of a superb Paulo Dybala at minutes 7 and 22.
In a strange second half, marked by numerous fouls and several arbitral errors (including a clear handball from Chiellini that was not called at minute 67), Juventus again imposed their dominance and completed the scoring on 55 minutes after a corner delivered by Miralem Pjanic found Giorgio Chiellini’s head, after the latter out-jumped Javier Mascherano (who, by the way, was more impressed by Chiellini’s handsome body than by the ball—and therefore decided not to look at the latter, slightly more important thing). The entrance of the Venezuelan Tomás Rincón at the end of the game brought this curious statistic: the Tachirense became the first Venezuelan to ever play a quarter-final in the history of the UCL.
A disoriented Barcelona, without clear ideas, waiting for the arriving of a glimpse of magic by the MSN, couldn’t do anything against a magnificent Juventus, with all their lines ordered and despite not having the ball, never losing control of the game. Juventus seems to be a strong candidate to win the UCL and performances like this reinforce that idea.
From Barcelona’s perspective, the discomfort is obvious. The system does not convince the players, the distance between some players like Jordi Alba or Rakitic with the coach is remarkable (the left back spent half an hour warming up and never entered the match) and stars self-manage away from the rest of the team.
Barça already have eight defeats and eight draws, which match the 2013/14 season with Martino on the bench (8 and 11) and the previous one with Tito Vilanova (8 and 9). Another defeat would place them next to the last season of Rijkaard (2007-08), when the team already had 9 defeats and 18 draws by this stage of the season. It was the last season in which Barcelona did not win any titles.
In the current year, Barcelona have shown their weakness away from the Camp Nou: seven defeats have taken place away from home (Celta, City, Athletic, PSG, Dépor, Malaga and Juve). Too many disasters adorned with an anonymous gameplan to compete in a league where the title was nearly let slip by Madrid, and a thorny Champions League road to Cardiff after the expressive setback in Juventus Stadium awaits. Statistics are simple: Juventus have not conceded goals in 7 of the 9 matches they have played in this year’s Champions League. In addition, they’re also the team that has conceded the fewest goals in Serie A (20 in 31 matches, followed by Roma with 26).
Barça will have to face the UCL again with very adverse results and statistics. As so happened in the last round against PSG, Barcelona must achieve a historic result to come back and reach the semi-finals yet again. However, Juventus have not conceded four goals in a match for more than a year; the last one to do so was Bayern Munich, who last season won 4-2 in the second round of the top continental competition. It was the 16th of March.
The result, however, has a catch: the team coached at that time by Pep Guardiola scored the last two goals in extra time, at the end of the 90 minutes the result was 2-2, the same as their first leg encounter. That matchup was remembered by the substitution of Morata, who was replaced in the 72nd minute, with Juventus still 0-2 up in the scoreboard. The Old Lady capitulated and conceded all four goals in less than half an hour: between minutes 73 ‘and 110’.
To find a match in which Juventus conceded four goals within 90 minutes, you will need to trace back to October 20, 2013, when Fiorentina triumphed 4-2 over Conte’s then team. It was with a script similar to Bayern’s: the Bianconeri went 0-2 and Fiore rounded the match in 25 minutes: between 66′ to 81′, with a hat-trick by Rossi and another goal from Joaquín assisted by Borja Valero.
However, none of those two results would serve Barcelona. We have to dive 13 years in the statistics to find a 4-0 defeat of Juventus. The recipe was made by Fabio Capello, who then coaching Roma, stamped that result on a Juventus managed by Lippi on the 8th of February in 2004. In the interval, the Bianconeri have only conceded four goals in four other games.
With all the statistics against them, many fans of Barcelona will say that the team will grow in the most adverse situations, and that this stumbling does not mean the end of the tie for Barcelona.
My opinion? That second leg between Barcelona and PSG left quite different sensations from what this match brought. And if things continue, I see it very difficult for Barcelona to overcome this obstacle. Juventus will not make the same mistakes as PSG simply because Juventus is not PSG. They’re the best team on the planet at seeing out games.