Can it happen?
Yes, I know about PSG and that historic comeback. That was truly something special, a magical night at the Camp Nou when we witnessed something that had never happened before. A 6-1 win after being 4-0 down? A stoppage time winner that saw a stadium of nearly 100,000 explode? Sergi Roberto will forever have a special place in the hearts of all Barça fans. Neymar’s undying faith that anything can happen fueled his wonderful play. It was one of the greatest nights in football history – unless you’re a PSG fan, of course.
But la Juve is a different beast altogether.
With as staunch a defense as any in Europe, the side from Turin can sit back and repel Barcelona attacks with their current 3-0 lead as insurance. While PSG won 4-0 and Juventus won 3-0 (sounds like it’d be more manageable, right?) pulling off this comeback would be even better.
The reason for this is that PSG, for all their domination in the first game, had been showing cracks in their system for a while. There can be no doubt that the end result was aided by PSG themselves. On the other hand, Juventus shows no such cracks, and hasn’t for a while.
In the first match, Barça was dominated defensively by PSG, yes, and the midfield was a shambles. But look a little closer, and you’ll start to see that PSG’s back line was questionable. They got behind it several times. They were just unable to finish. From Neymar to André Gomes to Samuel Umtiti, they couldn’t finish. You’ve got to wonder whether even one goal for Barcelona would have completely changed both legs.
In the second leg, that propensity by PSG’s back line for getting beat was again on display. With the midfield for us not being a complete disaster anymore, we were able to strike back. And strike back we did. It didn’t hurt that the relative inexperience of players like Layvin Kurzawa and Kevin Trapp worked in our favor. The second goal was an own goal by Kurzawa, and Kevin Trapp certainly could have done better. The last goal – that wonderful goal that will forever live on in soccer legend – was, once again, you guessed it: Roberto sneaking in and getting behind that back line. With it happening as much as it did over those two games, I can’t believe we didn’t see it coming.
Plus, PSG have been very inconsistent this season. They’ve struggled in the Ligue 1. Monaco look ready to claim the title after years of Parisian dominance. With the inconsistency they’d shown, the 4-0 result should have been taken with a grain of salt. Unfortunately, knee-jerk reactions to such a cataclysmic defeat had Barça fans in dismay. Sports tend to do that to people.
Juventus showed no such signs of defensive lapses. They have a formidable defense. Apart from this, it looks like Paulo Dybala (curse him) will be ready to go after reports of an injury. While Juventus ended the first leg with a smaller lead than PSG, the match was even more one-sided. Barcelona got barely anything. Maybe one or two good chances at most. Every ball in was handled with efficiency by Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci.
Another element to be considered is the element of revenge. Juve want revenge for that 2015 Champions League final. You can see it in their play and their resting players in the Serie A. You can even hear the conviction in Massimiliano Allegri’s press conferences. Barcelona have seemed, quite frankly, to lack that edge. It’s been a season wide problem.
They’re inefficient in front of goal, too. 16 shots, and only 4 on target: a mere 25%. Juventus, however, were 8/14 on target: 60%. Playing with possesion simply isn’t enough anymore. Barcelona had a staggering 541 passes to Juventus’s 215 and still lost 3-0. Form wise, Juve have the Italian league well in hand, and according to Steven Gerrard and Ronaldinho, two players I tend to listen to, Italian sides have always been brilliant tactically.
Apart from this, we weren’t helping ourselves tactically. We had almost nothing going on the left wing at all because Luis Enrique apparently believes that to play three at the back, Jordi Alba can’t play. At what point do you trade questionably better defense in the air by the slow-footed Jérémy Mathieu for production by Alba on offense? I mean, it’s hard when you shoot yourself in the metaphorical foot (see what I did there? Cause it’s football? No? Never mind me, I make bad jokes).
Just take a look at these highlights and find a positive for the Catalans:
I don’t mean to spell doom and gloom for us. On the contrary, these are some special players and they showed us last time that anything is possible. That’s the beauty of sports. Nothing is for certain.
But hindsight is 20/20, and in retrospect there were signs all over the PSG matches that “la remontada” was not only possible, but probable. I root for Barcelona, and I will be the first to eat my words and possibly throw a wild party if another comeback happens. But facts are facts, and the clues we had against PSG just aren’t there at all against Juventus.