Barca went through major heartbreaks in The Champions League for two consecutive seasons. In both occasions, it seemed like, they were so close, but both ended in tragedy. This season, they already lost laliga to Los Blancos, and with already lost Copa del Rey, Champions League is all they will fight for. Will Setien find some way through this team to get that Glory or will there be another misfortune again; we are to wait and see.
On 29 May 2017, Valverde replaced Luis Enrique as the new Barcelona manager. He had a wonderful season as barca’s manager. The team then went on a 29-match unbeaten run in all competitions from 20 August 2017 until 17 January 2018, when they lost to Espanyol in the first leg of the quarter-finals of the Spanish Cup.
However, they recovered to progress in that tie as part of another sequence of 15 matches without defeat, before a loss to A.S. Roma in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League on 10 April, with the 3–0 defeat meaning the Italians progressed on the away goals rule.
Barcelona remained undefeated for 43 matches in the Spanish League only to lose in their penultimate game of the campaign on 13 May 2018, having rested Lionel Messi for the trip to Levante UD – they were beaten 5–4 by the hosts.
THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FAILURE
THE FIRST HEARTBREAK, ROMA
Despite what seemed like a very good spell under Valverde, the journey of football club Barcelona was absolutely catastropic.
Barca started off well in the first season of The Champions League under Valverde. They topped their group unbeaten with 4 wins and 2 draws. They faced Chelsea in the round of 16 and won 4-1 on aggregate. When they faced Roma in first leg at home, they took 4-1 lead. Noone had a doubt that barca wont make it from here. But, the unthinkable happened.
What caused more pain to culers was not the defeat but the way they lost it. 4-1 lead isn’t a joke and more importantly for barca, who made the history with 6-1 comeback PSG shouldn’t have led it happen. It never looked likely and considering it was going to be Iniesta’s final season for barcelona, it was an absolute nightmare for Football Club Barcelona and culers.
Messi was sharp, he scored 34 league goals, 6 UCL goals and sealed his 5th European Golden boot. But, probably due to how Barca were completely shattered by Roma, he ended up being 5th in the ballon d’or race despite wining domestic double and the golden boot.
Fans were starting to dislike Valverde as it looked like he wasn’t decisive in making some changes. It looked like he wanted to clinch onto the lead than push the team to score more. In some way, Valverde neglected Roma and so did players and it went costed them real bad.
ANFIELD, THE SECOND HEARTBREAK
At the begining of new spell under Valverde, Lionel Messi pledged that Barcelona will do they can this season to bring Champions League glory back to the Camp Nou in his first public address as club captain.
Messi made the rare speech on Wendesday night before Barcelona’s preseason Joan Gamper Trophy match against Boca Juniors, with his promise to the home crowd coming after the club’s bitter rivals Real Madrid won a third consecutive Champions League title in May.
“Last season was really good as we did the double but we all felt bad about how it went in the Champions League. We promise that this season we will do all we can to bring that beautiful trophy back to the Camp Nou.”
In that season, Barca looked even more promising. Especially in the champions League, it looked like Messi was going for it like he said in his speech. If fans believed they will win the Champions League, it was all due to how Messi looked keen in the Champions League games.
Messi started off with sensational hattrick against PSV in group stage which included a free kick goal.
Messi was leading up front for barcelona in almost every UCL game. Barca faced Lyon in last 16 and On 13 March, Barça won Lyon 5-1 (5-1 agg), a magnificent performance from Lionel Messi saw the Argentine grab two of Barça’s five goals, and assist in two more for Gerard Piqué and Ousmane Dembélé, Philippe Coutinho completing the scoring.
On 16 April, Barça won Manchester United 3-0 (4-0 agg)in the quarter final. An incredible performance by Messi who scored two first-half goals with Coutinho adding a second-half rocket to qualify Barça for their eighth Champions League semi-final.
On 1 May, Barça won 3–0 against Liverpool in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final. Suarez scored the first goal, followed by two goals by Messi, the third a superb freekick from over 30 yards, providing them with a clear advantage going into the away leg on 7 May at Anfield. Messi’s second goal saw him reach 600 goals for Barça in 683 matches.
This time, it looked more likely; the circumstances looked more favourable, but maybe it wasn’t meant to be; or maybe, neither the players nor the coach learned anything from Roma misfortune.
3-0 lead in first leg. Barca had already clinched the Laliga title after 1-0 victory over Levante. In the away game to Celta Vigo just before second leg, Valverde had rested Lionel Messi with Luis Suarez, Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba, Sergi Roberto, Ivan Rakitic and Sergio Busquets along with goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
On the other side, Few people gave Liverpool any hope after the size of their defeat in Spain, especially with Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino out injured. Players couldn’t rest as they were fighting for the PL title with Man city as well. It almost looked like, it was theoritically impossible. Barca had better conditions and Liverpool were really struggling.
But, Just as Klopp promised before the game, Liverpool did not stop maintaining an astonishing tempo to press, harry and hassle their illustrious visitors, and ultimately defeat them by in the second leg by 4-0 (Aggregate 4-3 win).
And again, Lionel Messi was left shattered, probably even more than previous season because he was much more involved, much more clinical and it looked like, he could do it all by himself.
He was top scorer in the Champions League with 12 goals and 3 assists. He scored 51 goals and had 21 assists in all competition for FC Barcelona. He was so clinical and in Laliga, he was ruling almost every stats possible. It was all tamed by that moment, that happened at Anfield.
On 25 May, Barça lost the Copa Del Rey final to Valencia 1-2. Lionel Messi scored the only Barcelona goal that night. This loss marked the end of the season for FC Barcelona who won two trophies (La liga and Supercopa de España) out of the possible four. This is where, real talks of Valverde and his lack of wining mentality were questioned.
Despite everything, Messi went on to win his 6th Ballon d’or trophy edging past Van dijk by margins.
But, Anfield was unforgottable, unforgivable thing that happened.
A part of culers blamed Valverde for not having wining mentality. He always looked unsure even when the team was having a confortable lead. People were noticing how he prefers to hold onto the lead even if it’s just by one goal, he would turn defensive after 70-80 mins.
The Champions League isn’t like that, It’s all about what the team does in the 90 mins they have. Either that be in the 1st few minutes into the game or the final seconds of the 95th minutes, One must keep fighting. Valverde lacked that attacking mentality in some extent and after Roma it made him more cautious.
But, another part of culers didn’t like how these players could give up so easily. It’s almost like, they could never move on from Roma.
In the matchday series released by Barcelona back in Nov, 2019, In one episode we could see Jordi Alba breaking down at anfield at halftime. The scoreline was 0-1. Liverpool needed 3 more goals and how can a player from Barcelona go on and play with such mentality? it was truly questionable.
After Anfield, Messi was so much heartbroken. There were several reports of Messi taken for a drugs test by anti-doping officials after 4-0 defeat at Anfield. Joel Matip,Liverpool defender shared his experience of being with Messi for the doping test after the game.
Matip said, “And when I came into the doping test room, there was a guy sitting there pretty depressed – Lionel Messi.”
”Everyone is celebrating, and I’m sitting in a cubicle with Messi.”
While Lionel Messi was traumatized after Anfield reports circulated that Rakitic went to Sevilla and fans didn’t like it. It was criticized so much and mainly because it was an error from Rakitic and Alba that costed Barca the second goal at Anfield.
It was absolutely disgraceful that after what happened he was seen roaming around in Sevilla.
It was the Feria de Sevilla, a festival in the city that Rakitic used to call home.
He caught up with Monchi, members of the Sevilla squad and Jose Maria del Nido, who put a photo of the pair on social media.
ALBA CLAIMED FANS SPOILED
After barca collapsed at Anfield, they went on to lose Copa del rey final against Valencia 1-2 with Messi being the only goalscorer. They won Laliga with 11 points ahead of second placed Atleico MAdrid. Then Alba came forward and claimed that the Blaugrana have spoiled their fans by winning so many titles over the last few years.
“For better or for worse, we have spoiled people by winning so many titles and it’s really hard to win.”
THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE 2020
Barca needed a change, a new something that could uplift Barcelona mentality. Many Fans wanted Valverde out after Anfield, but it didn’t happen till barca lost to Atletico in Supercopa semifinal by 3-2.
Valverde was sacked and Setién eventually signed as head coach of Barcelona on 13 January 2020, replacing the dismissed Ernesto Valverde on a contract lasting to June 2022.
Setien hasn’t lived upto the expectations of fans as they lost the Laliga title to rivals Real madrid and copa del rey quarter final to Atletic club by 1-0. Despite Setien showed how he respects Cruyff philosophy and the end results hasn’t been that great under Setien. Sometimes, it looked like The Real Barca is back, like the final game against Alaves and sometimes the team just looked toothless.
But, now we remain at this state where Barca can only fight for The Champions League title this season. If lost, they will go trohyless for the first time since 2014.
CHANCES, LOWER THAN LAST TWO SEASON
If we look at where we lost in the Champions League in last two season, we are at much difficult position. Barca drew 1-1 in first leg away against Napoli and are facing the Italian side on 8th August for the second leg.
Espically because of how it ended in last two season, fans are worried about Barca getting past Napoli. If even if they manage to, they will face most likely Bayern Munich in the Quarter finals. And if they get past Bayern too, they will face either Man city or Real madrid or Juventus or Lyon.
Barca also had the toughest group in the group stage with Dortmund, Inter Milan and Slavia Praha in the same group. They recovered from it and now has even more tougher stage ahead.
It’s a real test for Quique Setien as well as the players. Now that This Champions League is the only title they can achieve this season, they must give their all. Barca had defensive issues; Lenglet, Araujo ,Umtiti were injured and were at risk for not making it to UCL against Napoli. But latest speculations says, Lenglet is ready and Araujo might be ready too. Even bigger news is Dembele might be ready if we get past Napoli. Fans await what Dembele can do under Setien.
This team, Football club Barcelona is among th best teams in the world. Like Messi has said, “When we are at the best, no one can defeat us.” This team needs to find that spark, awaken that wining spirit, fight with everything and They will be get that most desired trophy back home.
A lot has changed under Setien, Riqui Puig and Ansu Fati were given chances and they showed their La masia spirit and were able to become a key to this team. Setien will count on them, Setien will count on Messi. Barca have Griezmann who is the only player besides Messi to score away in a knockout stage in the Champions League since 2015.
We have this squad that’s probably the best in the world. These players need to believe in their capabilities, believe in their philosophy and in the coach. It’s not that far, fans still have faith in this team and we await either there will be another nightmare farewell in The Champions League or Barca will rise to glory with the UCL title in 2020.