CEBU

Villaflor: Barca’s mountain to climb

Footnote

Once feared among its European peers, FC Barcelona is slowly being pushed toward the periphery and farther from the circle of elite contenders.

The last time the Catalans made it to the Champions League final was in the 2015 edition, when it lifted the trophy after defeating Italian giants Juventus.

That was just six years ago, but the championship caliber Barca back then now seems like a distant memory.

Considering its own lofty standards, the multi-billion-dollar club that is Barcelona has underperformed in European football of late.

Since winning the Champions League in 2015, the Blaugrana have only made it to the semifinals once (2019) and only managed to reach the quarterfinals in four other seasons (2016, 2017, 2018 and 2020).

Now, Barca is in real danger of failing to advance past the last eight, as it faces Paris Saint-Germain in its second leg Round of 16 clash on Thursday, March 11.

After defeating Barca 4-1 in the first leg at the Nou Camp last Feb. 17, PSG looks formidable as it plays as hosts at the Parc des Princes in Paris, France.

To overcome PSG’s away goal advantage and advance, Barca needs to score at least four goals and shut out the French side.

All possible score lines considered, Barca faces a mountain to climb. If Barca fails to advance, it would be the club’s worst Champions League performance in the last 14 years.

But if there’s something going Barca’s way at this point; it is momentum.

And it comes no less from its recent stellar performances in the domestic front.

Since losing the first leg to PSG followed by a 1-1 draw with Cadiz at the La Liga, Barcelona have racked up four straight wins.

Three of these wins were La Liga matches and one was an incredible 3-0 come-from-behind victory over Sevilla in the Copa del Rey semifinal last March 4, after which Barca advanced 3-2 on aggregate to the finals.

So, how did Barca regain its mojo?

Barcelona manager Ronald Koeman made a bold tactical move late in the season: He shifted to a 3-5-2 formation as the 4-3-3 no longer cut it for his side.

So far playing 3-5-2 has resulted in three straight wins for Barca, including the Copa del Rey feat.

The question is, would this tactical shift and all that momentum be enough for Barca to turn the tide against rampaging PSG on Thursday?


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