3 Reasons why Barcelona have struggled in away Champions League knockout matches
Barcelona blowing away a 3 goal lead couldn't happen again, could it? Well, it did. After beating Liverpool 3-0 at home Barcelona looked set to qualify for their first Champions League final since 2015 but a brace from Origi and Wijnaldum meant the club from Catalunya relived the Roma disaster again this season, but this time at Anfield.
But Barcelona losing heavily away from home in Champions League is not something new. They have now lost 4-0 to PSG, 3-0 to Juve, 3-0 to Roma and now 4-0 to Liverpool in the last 3 seasons. We look at 3 reasons as to why Barcelona, so dominant in La Liga has struggled so much in the away knockout ties in the Champions League.
#3 Wrong gameplan
When Barcelona faced PSG in the round of 16 in 2016-17, Luis Enrique, the then Barcelona manager used a high midfield line to provide Barcelona with more men in the final attacking third. This left a huge gap between their midfield and defense. PSG duly exploited this space between Barcelona's midfield and defense, with PSG's midfield regularly providing through balls to their attackers and eventually running away as a 4-0 winner.
Against Juventus, Luis Enrique went with a back 3 of Pique, Umtiti, and Mathieu and used Mascherano and Rakitic as wide midfielders. Juventus's Juan Cuadrado and Mario Mandzukic regularly stretched Barcelona's defense which created space in the middle. Dybala would often drop behind Higuain and exploit this space to create chances for his team-mates.
In the 2017-18 campaign before the game against AS Roma, Valverde started 8 of his starting 11 players in a league game against Leganes. As the coach had barely rotated, Barcelona players came into this game totally exhausted. Given that Roma is a physical side, rather than trying to defend and match Roma in terms of physicality Valverde should have started players who could have provided Barcelona pace and helped the team in stretching Roma at the back or hit them on the counter.
Coming into the 2nd leg against Liverpool this season, Barcelona knew that Liverpool would attack from the word go and hence should have gone for someone like Malcolm who would have provided them pace on the counters. Also, the game being played at such a high tempo, Arthur should have started in the midfield as he is very good at controlling the pace of the game and provides control in the midfield but Valverde rather opted for Vidal.
All in all, when it mattered the most, Barcelona got it wrong in terms of tactics and gameplan and thus paid a heavy price for it.