The Champions League is fast approaching and this can be an exciting, hopeful yet frightful time for us fans. Yes, I am referring to the uncrossable barrier, the quarter-final stage. The quarter-final curse; as if the game at Anoeta on matchday 4 wasn’t enough to stress about.
Since Barcelona‘s triumphs in Berlin during the 2014/15 season, it seems near to impossible to win the trophy once again. What with the controversy surrounding referees, it’s a difficult task for any team. But with the rumoured introduction of VAR into the competition, all the signs point to justice and revenge.
It seems that in the previous season our elimination is due to fatigue which is a result of the lack of rotation from Valverde’s side. This especially being the problem during last seasons embarrassing defeat to AS Roma. As much as we want to forget that horrible night, where we were humiliated even with a 4-0 aggregate advantage, it will forever haunt us. As long as AS Roma’s official twitter exists, we will never live that night down. Although the Malcom memes do keep them quiet for the time being.
During last season it was obvious that the players were being overworked. Whether this is because of Valverde not having enough trust in his bench, the immense amount of games being played a week, with no space for the required rest days around the training sessions, or just a poor tactical decision from Valverde, it definitely showed all too well during the tournament, and reflected into the league as well.
In our past attempts to clinch the title, our dreams were shattered by a number of teams. Let’s take a trip down memory lane:
In 2016, under former coach Luis Enrique, our hopes were high for our post-treble winning season. It was smooth sailing in the first leg at Camp Nou as we beat Atletico Madrid 2-1 in a match which saw a red card shown to the goalscorer for Los Colchoneros that night, Fernando Torres. But the Vicente Calderon had an intimidating nature and Barca fell short when Antoine Griezmann netted twice. We were eliminated 3-2 on aggregate.
2017 was quite a memorable campaign. One for the history books. A dark night in Paris as we conceded 4 goals to PSG. Only to complete the greatest comeback in Champions League history, an incredible 6-1 win at the Camp Nou sent us into the quarterfinals. Our happiness was short lived as we were humiliated at the Allianz Arena as Juventus put 3 past us in the first leg. Barca fell short in the second leg, both sides failing to score which saw the Old Lady progress to the Semi-Finals, ultimately losing to Real Madrid in the final.
Last but not least, 2018. Valverde’s first CL campaign with the Blaugranas. And one to forget. A noticeably exhausted Barca side broken down in the Stadio Olimpico. Goals by Edin Dzeko, Daniele De Rossi and Kostas Manolas saw Roma excelling to the next round with an away goal advantage on a 4-4 aggregate. AS Roma, you’ve won this round.
This season there is sure to be a difference with the inclusions of new signings Arthur, Clement Lenglet, Malcom and Arturo Vidal. A reminder that Philippe Coutinho did not feature for Barcelona last season. Having the Brazilian now eligible to play is one of the highlights of our campaign and should be a huge confidence boost to our side, especially since this season we have to tackle the competition without the guidance and presence of Andres Iniesta. In no way can any player fill the void of our departed legend but they can bring a fresh new spark into our play.
Valverde has no excuse this time around. Barca fans expect nothing less than the treble this season and players, Messi and Pique in particular, have voiced that they are eager to lift the Champions League trophy in Madrid next year.
All roads lead to Madrid. There’s nothing sweeter than FC Barcelona lifting the trophy in the Wanda Metropolitano. Well, the only thing that would make it better would be a certain opponent collecting their ‘losers medals’ and proceeding to give us our long overdue pasillo.