The Year for a Barcelona Comeback
After two weeks off, mid-week Champions League soccer is back starting Tuesday, a welcome sign for any devoted footy fans. Tuesday’s slate includes Arsenal looking to pull off a miracle against Bayern Munich and Napoli needing to overcome a 3–1 deficit as they host Real Madrid. Wednesday has intrigue as Borussia Dortmund are down 1–0 and playing host to Benfica, but it also has the most interesting scoreline from the first leg of the round of 16: Paris Saint-Germain 4, Barcelona 0.
When the two clubs met back on February 14 in Paris, it was a night Parisians aren’t likely to forget for a long time. Angel Di Maria got the ball rolling with a goal in the 18th minute, and Julian Draxler doubled the lead just before halftime. Barcelona weren’t able to make adjustments at the break, and it was another goal from Di Maria that proved to be the dagger and an Edinson Cavani goal that was the icing on the cake for a PSG side that made history with their 4–0 victory over Barcelona.
Since this is the Champions League, however, Barcelona aren’t technically dead just yet. Like a footy version of Will from Stranger Things, Barca will look to return to the world of the living after a month in the upside down. Since their 4–0 loss to PSG nearly a month ago, Barca have seen their manager announce his end-of-season exit and have seen more headlines about “crisis” than any other stretch during the Lionel Messi Era of Barcelona football. Of course, the club has also won all four of their matches since the PSG loss, doing so by a combined score of 15–3. The last two matches (6–1 over Sporting Gijon and 5–0 over Celta Vigo) have been especially dominant affairs, and while the level of competition in those two matches can’t compare to PSG, it does bring us to the central point of this article: If any club can come back from 4–0 in 90 minutes of football, it’s Barcelona.
You probably don’t need me to remind you just how great Barcelona’s attacking trio of Messi, Luis Suarez, and Neymar are, but here are some numbers for you: in 37 club matches for Barcelona this season, Messi has 38 goals; in 37 club matches for Barcelona this season, Suarez has 27 goals; in 33 club matches for Barcelona this season, Neymar has 12 goals. That’s 77 combined goals this season alone. Considering the club has played a total of 43 matches this season, that’s an insane number of goals just coming from that top trio. In six Champions League matches, the trio have combined for 14 goals, that’s north of two goals per match from the MSN trio.
It’s not as if those three players are the only ones with scoring ability on Barca either. Ivan Rakitic and Rafinha have five and six goals respectively in La Liga this season. Plus, with Barcelona’s system, they can get goals from anywhere, as evidenced by the five defenders with at least one goal in La Liga for Barca in 2016–17.
Add all that offensive explosion up and suddenly it’s not so hard to imagine a 4–0 lead being erased. And wouldn’t it just be perfectly fitting for the last 12 months of sports (and politics) for Barcelona to pull off the insane upset and stick yet another dagger in the side of the statisticians across the globe. (Like the stats giving Barca a 0% chance at advancing.) I mean between the 3–1 series leads blown in both the World Series and NBA Finals, the moral equivalent to a 3–1 lead blown in the Super Bowl, to go along with Trump’s upset over Hillary, and most recently the kerfuffle at The Oscars, the last 12 months have been so crazy that (very smart) people are starting to think that we’re living in a computer simulation that is starting to glitch. That’s how absurd the last 12 months has been.
When you think of it that way, it would almost be shocking if Barcelona didn’t advance to the round of eight, right?