Barcelona got another mountain to climb

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Barcelona’s Gerard Pique holds his head at the end of a Champions League quarterfinal, first-leg soccer match between Juventus and Barcelona at the Juventus Stadium in Turin, Italy. Juventus won 3-0. AP

 

TURIN, Italy – Barcelona has to do it all over again.

After a historic comeback in the last round, the Spanish club needs another match of epic proportions to reach the Champions League semifinals following Tuesday’s 3-0 loss at Juventus.

Juventus will, of course, be favored in the second leg on April 19, but still fresh in everyone’s mind is the 6-1 rout of Paris Saint-Germain which saw Barcelona become the first team in the history of the competition to overturn a 4-0 first-leg loss.

“We don’t feel as bad as we did in Paris, but we have another big mountain to climb,” said midfielder Andres Iniesta, one of the few Barcelona players to speak after the match. “If we do things as we need to, we’ll turn it around. Otherwise, it’ll be impossible.

“At the moment it is hard to see a comeback next week, but certainly as the days pass we will see it easier, while well aware of how difficult it will be.”

Nothing went right for Barcelona in Turin. The team conceded an early goal and then moments after Gianluigi Buffon pulled off a great save to prevent Iniesta from equalizing, Paulo Dybala scored his second of the night.

Barcelona was also denied a possible penalty, which could have led to a vital away goal, when Giorgio Chiellini handled in the area.

“It was a completely different match to the PSG one,” Barcelona technical secretary Robert Fernandez said. “Their start really hurt us. Then when it was 1-0 we had the opportunity to equalize, but then they immediately got their second.

“We have to think that we can turn it around in front of our fans and in our stadium.”

It will be difficult against such an experienced defense with Juve’s BBC of Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli and Chiellini more than capable of handling Barcelona’s MSN of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar. Bonucci, Barzagli and Chiellini have played together for years for club and country and are backed up by the formidable Buffon.

Barcelona’s need for goals will also leave space for Juve’s stellar attack — which includes Argentina teammates Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain — to exploit.

Barcelona coach Luis Enrique is not so confident.

“Today it is hard for me to think we can get back into this,” he said. “I am an optimistic person but not in nightmare moments. Until tomorrow I can’t think of another comeback. We are again living a nightmare.”

Enrique referred to the match as “a nightmare” several times and was at a loss as to why Barcelona collapsed again.

“We gave away two goals in the first half and against a team like Juventus you pay for it,” he said. “As a coach, it’s very difficult to explain. Juventus was superior to us in every way and I’m responsible 101 percent.

“The second half was much better, but I can’t get the first half out of my head. I saw my players with the intention of fighting and giving their all for the Champions League, but it was like the last part of the match in Paris and it’s hard to take that this has happened again to us.” (AP)