By Parth Parikh,
Sports Business Writer
On Wednesday March 8th, the eyes of the soccer world descended on Camp Nou in Barcelona, Spain for the ever-important Champions League clash between two European giants, Paris Saint-Germain of France and FC Barcelona of Spain. The two teams were ready for the second leg of their matchup after their first leg February meeting at the famous Parc des Princes in Paris, France. That February meeting resulted in a 4-0 win in favor of Paris Saint-Germain, with goals from star strikers Edinson Cavani and Angel di Maria, along with all-rounder Julian Draxler.
The Barcelona shutout could only be summed up by the lack of athleticism, effort and care on their part, as the Spanish giants looked weaker and fatigued as the game went on. As the final whistle blew, Barcelona suddenly found themselves facing elimination and a four-goal lead to overcome without giving up another goal when the game heads to Camp Nou. All pundits had counted the Spanish giants out of the competition.
The match on March 8th was preceded by the fallout from the 4-0 defeat, with the news that manager Luis Enrique will step down after this season and the rumor that star Lionel Messi does not want to play with some of the new players Barcelona had signed over the summer. The expectations for Barcelona could not have been more spread out, as some expected PSG to tack on another four goals at Barcelona to officially eliminate them from Europe’s biggest soccer tournament, while some predicted Barcelona to score five goals to overcome their four-goal deficit and take an outright lead on aggregate to move on to the quarterfinals. None, however, had predicted that Barcelona would enter the second leg facing a 4-0 deficit.
As the second leg began in Camp Nou, the momentum had shifted entirely in favor of the Spanish super-team, as Barcelona started with their signature high-power, goal-scoring offense right out of the gate. The result was a goal from Luis Suarez within the first five minutes of the game, and an own goal from PSG defender Layvin Kurzawa right before halftime. After 45 minutes of play, Barcelona had cut PSG’s lead in half and shook the French squad. As the second half was underway, captain Lionel Messi earned a penalty kick and scored, thus bringing Barcelona within striking distance of PSG.
But the spree had ended there, as PSG striker Cavani netted the key away goal that now made it more difficult for Barcelona to come back. By scoring the one away goal, PSG had five goals on aggregate, meaning Barcelona would need not two goals to win, but now needed three. The task seemed out of hand and the likelihood of Barcelona winning dimmed at the very least. But just as the world counted them out, Barcelona proved why they are the five-time Champions League titleholders by staging a 3-goal, 8-minute goal-scoring session, with goals from Neymar and a game-winner from substitute Sergi Roberto, to give the Catalonians the six required goals to move on to the quarterfinals. The result was a 6-1 thrashing and the PSG team that had a four-goal lead could do nothing but look on and see the lead diminish before their eyes.
The game will go down as one of the greatest comebacks in Champions League history and proved that great teams score the key goals when everything is on the line.
With their incredible comeback, Barcelona moves on as one the eight remaining teams in the Champions’ League European Tournament. They received their draw on Friday the 17th to find out that they will be facing a familiar opponent in the quarterfinals, Italian league leaders Juventus. The two clubs have a history of big matchups, as the sides recently met in the finals in 2015. Barcelona won the previous matchup played in Berlin by the score of 3-1. Led by goals from Rakitic, Suarez, and the dagger from Neymar, Barcelona won their fifth Champions’ League title.
Despite midfielder Paul Pogba no longer being with Juventus, this matchup will have many familiar faces. Juventus veterans such as Gianluigi Buffon and Andrea Barzagli want their revenge against Barcelona. Former Barcelona defender Dani Alves will also be facing his former club for the first time, making for an interesting storyline.
It will certainly be an outstanding matchup. Both teams are capable of winning the entire tournament, so the soccer world will certainly keep a close eye on this one. It is only a matter of time until these European elites face off.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, March 21st, 2017 print edition.
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