Barca's Champions League dreams all but over
Juventus present a far more tougher opposition for Barca to overturn three-goal deficit
Barcelona pulled off one of the greatest Champions League comebacks of all time against Paris Saint-Germain, but the Catalan side won't write a similar sequel against Juventus in the quarter-finals, after losing 3-0 in Turin yesterday morning (Singapore time). Our writer explains why.
JUVE BUILD PENALTY BOX PRISON
Gianluigi Buffon's fingerprints make it an open and shut case.
Barcelona are buried. The Catalan side will head for the exits at the Nou Camp after the second leg, whimsically recalling their days of supremacy while contemplating the major rebuilding job ahead.
This tie is over. Juventus are through. Their goalkeeper's fingertips provided the proof.
Between Paulo Dybala's two goals, Lionel Messi threaded the first of his two needle-threading passes in the game. Andres Iniesta had to score. He would've scored against just about any other goalkeeper, but Buffon has built a career out of not being any other goalkeeper.
Defying his age, the Italian got down quicker than an angry passenger on a United Airlines flight to flick Iniesta's shot wide. He later repeated the trick with Luis Suarez.
Along with Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini, Buffon forms an impenetrable triangle of rugged, retro nastiness.
The trio are neither the youngest, nor the fastest. They're simply the best.
Barca need to score four in the Nou Camp. They'll be lucky to score at all.
WHY DYBALA HAS EDGE OVER MESSI
Before the game, Barca legend Xavi Hernandez declared Paulo Dybala "the right player for us", laying the groundwork perhaps for a potential transfer.
The 23-year-old Dybala undoubtedly ticks every box. He's fast, impudent, unfazed and delivers on the big occasions.
He's made for Barcelona, but the Argentinian may think a little differently. Why join a declining Barca side when he can become the lynchpin of a Juve team ready to break the glass ceiling of Serie A and challenge Europe's elite?
Dybala has quietly become Juventus' omnipotent force for change. His two outstanding goals epitomise his campaign, sneaking inside unsuspecting defenders to dazzle a global audience with moments of improvised beauty.
Barcelona's waxwork figures will struggle to stop Dybala's rise in the second leg. Messi remains the superior footballer, but Dybala is surrounded with better teammates.
CATALAN SIDE'S CARTOONISH COLLAPSE
Jeremy Mathieu played Tom to Dybala's Jerry. The pair created a 45-minute cartoon caper, with the bigger, cumbersome Mathieu chasing the smaller, niftier Dybala and never catching him.
Mathieu, a 33-year-old French veteran, was replaced at half-time, presumably to stop Dybala from blowing him up with a box of TNT. But he was hardly the only culprit. Seven goals conceded in two Champions League ties highlight the defensive decay.
Mathieu and Samuel Umtiti do not get anywhere near a Barcelona jersey in the club's prime. They certainly didn't get anywhere near a Juventus jersey. Andre Gomes, Mathieu's replacement, was barely an improvement, an indictment of a club that has neglected its back four for several years now.
The marking was negligible, the defending at set-pieces unforgivable. Chiellini easily brushed aside Javier Mascherano to score the critical third goal. A defender on the post would've stopped it, but any semblance of organisation has gone AWOL.
Gerard Pique appears to be the only dependable centre back left, an overwhelmed man among misfits.
The PSG miracle papered over the cracks. Barcelona are falling giants, hamstrung by a motley crew of spinning tops at the back.
FORTUNE FAVOURS THE BETTER TACTICS
Barcelona coach Luis Enrique had to go for broke in the second leg against PSG. The four-goal deficit, Barca's siege mentality and PSG's "rabbits in the headlights" created a perfect storm.
But Enrique's decision to go with a similar formation in Turin was tantamount to tactical suicide.
Jordi Alba, a natural fullback, was dropped in favour of Mathieu. Mascherano was thrown in front of a confused back three and ordered to repeat his holding heroics at the 2014 World Cup for Argentina. He didn't.
As a result, Enrique effectively cut the umbilical cord between defence and attack. A bizarre 3-1-2-1-3 left Barca looking thin to the point of anorexia.
Massimiliano Allegri, on the other hand, knew he was blessed with a formidable back five, including Buffon, so he pushed five attack-oriented players forward to knock over Enrique's mannequins.
What's worse, the Barcelona coach has little alternative but to stick with the reckless approach in the second leg in a bid to salvage the tie. It could be Christmas come early for Juventus.
Like giggling hyenas, they may feast further on what's left of Barcelona's carcass.
Neymar to miss El Clasico
Barcelona star Neymar will miss the clash with Real Madrid on April 24 after receiving a three-match ban following his red card against Malaga on Sunday.
The Brazilian forward had earned an automatic one-match suspension for two bookable offences, ruling him out of this Sunday morning's (Singapore time) home game with Real Sociedad.
However, his ban was extended because he had sarcastically applauded the fourth official as he walked down the tunnel, which means he will also miss the El Clasico date at the Bernabeu and the home game against Osasuna on April 27.
Barcelona are three points behind leaders Real, who have a game in hand. - WIRE SERVICES