Barca lack sparkle ahead of Lyon clash
Catalan giants' last-four outings were a 1-0 win over Valladolid and three draws
Despite an iron grip on domestic trophies, Barcelona have been haunted by their recent failures in the Champions League and there are signs of concern for the Catalans as they prepare for tomorrow morning's (Singapore time) last-16, first leg away to Olympique Lyonnais.
Ernesto Valverde's side fly to France after an uninspiring 1-0 win at home to struggling Real Valladolid on Saturday that consolidated their lead at the top of La Liga - but left plenty of doubts about their capabilities of winning Europe's top prize.
The drab victory over Valladolid, in which Lionel Messi scored a penalty and missed one, followed a goalless stalemate at Athletic Bilbao, a 2-2 draw with Valencia and a 1-1 draw with Real Madrid in a Copa del Rey semi-final, first leg.
Valverde, however, has played down the significance of his side's recent slack displays.
"Sometimes you cannot be brilliant in every game, but the team are ready to play at their very best," he said.
Defender Gerard Pique, however, was more scathing of Barca's performances and warned of the potential consequences of their lacklustre displays.
"We were not the Barca we wanted to be, the result was good, the sensations were not," he said.
"We must improve on Tuesday or we will suffer a lot. If we don't move the ball quickly, dominate the play and possession or create chances, we are a weaker team."
Barca have fallen at the quarter-final stage of the Champions League each year since last winning it in 2015.
They suffered a particularly humiliating elimination by AS Roma last season after taking a 4-1 lead in the first leg.
They have looked on enviously as Real have won the last three editions of the big-eared trophy, swelling their total number of European Cups to 13, which makes Barca's five look measly by comparison.
Despite winning three of the last four La Liga titles and collecting the Copa del Rey four years in a row, there is a widespread feeling that Barca should have fared better on the continent, especially while Messi has been at his peak.
DISMAL AWAY RECORD
The Argentinian seems to think so too - in his first speech as captain last August, he pledged to do "everything possible to bring that beautiful trophy back to the Nou Camp".
For that ambition to be realised, Barca must improve on a dismal away record which has seen them win only one of their last six visits in the Champions League knockout rounds, scoring three goals while conceding 13.
Barca will be boosted by the return of France's World Cup- winning defender Samuel Umtiti after nearly three months out with a knee problem, while defender Thomas Vermaelen and midfielder Arthur Melo are injured. - REUTERS