Lionel Messi: Had nine shots vs Lyon – no player has had more in a Champions League match this season – with just one effort hitting the target.
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) February 20, 2019
Barcelona have not lived up to their potential in the Champions League over the last three seasons, allowing Real Madrid to enjoy a stranglehold on Europe’s elite competition. The Catalan club have been knocked out of the tournament at the quarter-final stage every season since their last triumph in the 2014/15 campaign.
Even with their dominance of LaLiga there is a growing pressure on Barca to address the balance in Spain as their great rivals have stormed their way to a record number of crowns, extending their advantage over the rest of the field.
Ernesto Valverde’s men played out a goalless draw against Lyon the first leg of their round-of-16 clash, although the Groupama Stadium has proven to be a tricky place to play and Oddschecker were on the money backing the tie to be all square heading back to the Camp Nou. As a result, Barcelona have work to do in the second leg and they’ve not been infallible at home.
The club have lost to Real Betis in LaLiga, while they needed comebacks to secure draws against Girona, Athletic Bilbao and Valencia. Lionel Messi has been his side’s saving grace time and again this term. The Argentine has always been able to conjure magic out of nowhere to bail them out of trouble, although against the elite teams in Europe it has not always been the case. Barca have placed too much pressure on his shoulders and it has resulted in three underwhelming European campaigns on the bounce.
After beating Juventus in the final in 2015, Barca began their run of disappointments, losing to Atletico Madrid after taking a 2-1 lead into the second leg of their quarter-final. However, an Antoine Griezmann brace sent them out of the competition at the Vicente Calderon. Juve got a semblance of revenge for their defeat in the final two years earlier in their last eight clash in 2017. Two strikes from Paulo Dybala and a goal from Giorgio Chiellini sent the Italian outfit through the last four after Messi and company were held in check in the return leg. Barca were even fortunate to reach that stage of the competition, having needed a miraculous comeback to overturn a 4-0 defeat to Paris Saint-Germain in the round-of-16.
Kostas Manolas: “I don’t care about me going down in history. I care about Roma reaching the Champions League semi-final against the best team in the world, Barcelona." pic.twitter.com/DMWwDuZWNk
— Indy Football (@IndyFootball) April 10, 2018
Last term Valverde’s men were on the receiving end of a brilliant comeback from Roma. I Lupi were hammered 4-1 at the Camp Nou before Edin Dzeko, Daniele De Rossi and Kostas Manolas found the net to defeat the Catalan club. There are enough warning signs from their past exploits to put Barca on their guard against Lyon, who have already proven to be a match for the Spanish outfit and Manchester City this term, defeating Pep Guardiola’s men at the Etihad Stadium.
In the past even Messi has been frustrated on the big stage, therefore Barca will have to produce a complete performance to see off Lyon. Given the age of their key players, the pressure is on Valverde and his team to win the European crown at least once more while their window remains open. However, even if they are able to see off the French side there will be greater challenges to come.