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UCL 2018/2019: Despite victory over Manchester United, Messi dependence could cost Barcelona

Elvis Ume O
ANALYST
Feature
458   //    12 Apr 2019, 00:10 IST

Manchester United v FC Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final: First Leg
Manchester United v FC Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final: First Leg

Barcelona and Manchester United played out the first leg of their highly anticipated quarterfinal clash at Old Trafford, with the visitors coming out on top.

Luis Suarez's header via a deflection off Luke Shaw to put Barcelona in the driving seat ahead of the second leg. However, judging by the Red Devils' remarkable performance to eliminate PSG in the last round, the Blaugrana would probably keep their optimism in check.

So far this season and over the last decade, Lionel Messi has been the driving force behind everything Barcelona hopes to achieve, and on the strength of their performance against Manchester United, they could come undone when faced against stronger opposition.

Messi has gone 11 consecutive UCL quarterfinal matches without a goal
Messi has gone 11 consecutive UCL quarterfinal matches without a goal

Lionel Messi is undoubtedly one of the greatest players in history and to a large extent arguably the greatest goalscorer of all time.

His impact on the Champions League is also not in doubt, and with 108 goals, he is the second highest scorer in the history of the tournament.

The Argentine's performance level has been so extraordinary over the years that a two-game scoreless streak represents a drought for him.

It's almost impossible to imagine Messi going five matches without scoring a goal, much less a whopping 11, but that is exactly the scenario the five-time Ballon d'Or winner finds himself in.

Messi's last Champions League quarterfinal goal came way back in April 2013 when he came off the bench to equalize for his side and send them through to the last four at the expense of PSG.

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Incredibly, since that time, the Rosario native has drawn blanks in 11 consecutive quarterfinal matches, failing to score against Atletico Madrid (twice), Juventus (twice), AS Roma over two legs and on Wednesday night against Manchester United.

Messi had been in impressive form heading into the match against The Red Devils, scoring 43 goals in all competitions from just 40 matches and as such he was odds on to break this ugly trend against a United backline which has not exactly been awe-inspiring.

However, that turned out to not be the case, as The Red Devils put up a brave showing which limited Messi's effectiveness and condemned him to an 11th consecutive quarterfinal drought.

It serves as a no-brainer that Barcelona have qualified just once in the five years since Messi last scored a quarterfinal goal and even though they are likely to progress this time regardless of whether their number 10 scores in the second leg or not, the fact that they are so dependent on him is portends danger.

The Catalan giants have one of the highest wage bills in the world and are home to some of the best forwards in the game, so it serves as a surprise that the club is so dependent of Lionel Messi to achieve greatness.

The Argentine continues to perform at his optimum, but elsewhere in the attack, there is not much to give Barcelona fans supreme confidence.

Coutinho was a passenger in the match against Manchester United
Coutinho was a passenger in the match against Manchester United

Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho are among the best forwards on their day, but things have not exactly been panning out the way they planned in recent times.

Coutinho's case is particularly more galling, as the Brazilian international arrived Barcelona as their record signing on the back of some breathtaking displays for Liverpool, but the 26-year-old has largely failed to carry over that form to Camp Nou and is currently experiencing a terrible run of form with reports suggesting he is unhappy at the club.

For his part, Luis Suarez has been wonderful in the league, scoring 20 goals from 30 La Liga matches, but it is on the continent where he has been horribly off-color.

The 32-year-old has failed to score in seven UCL appearances this season, while he has also gone almost four years without an away goal in Europe's premier club competition.

In the match against United, neither failed to fully stamp their authority on the match, with Philippe Coutinho being a virtual passenger for the entirety of the 65 minutes he was on the field before being replaced by Arturo Vidal.

Considering that Ousmane Dembele is too injury prone to place much trust in while Malcom has been nothing more than an afterthought for the entirety of his Barcelona career, it makes the struggles of Barcelona's forwards on the continent all the more jarring.

As Barcelona progress further in the competition, they would undoubtedly come up against much tougher opposition and as such, the Blaugrana would need their star forwards to rediscover their scoring boots fast, because if they keep depending on Lionel Messi, their European charge could end in disappointment just like the last three seasons.








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