Two goals from Lionel Messi helped Barcelona to a 3-0 defeat of Manchester United on Tuesday and a 4-0 aggregate triumph in their Champions League quarter-final tie.
With a 1-0 advantage from the first meeting at Old Trafford, the Catalans took command inside the first 20 minutes thanks to a double from their number 10, the second of which owed plenty to a dreadful mistake from David de Gea.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer named an attacking line-up featuring Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford, but the blow of those first-half goals seemed to drain any hope of repeating the kind of performance they produced to stun Paris Saint-Germain in France in the last 16.
The tie was firmly put to bed by a sublime goal from Philippe Coutinho, who may get the chance to face old club Liverpool in the semi-finals if they see off Porto on Wednesday.
Rashford prodded a shot against the bar in a positive start from United, but they engineered their own downfall within the space of four minutes.
Ashley Young dithered in possession and lost the ball near his own box, allowing Messi to step into space and drill a shot beyond De Gea and into the bottom-left corner.
The United keeper could do little about it, but he endured a calamitous moment 20 minutes in, allowing Messi’s tame right-foot shot to squeeze beneath his body and into the net.
De Gea denied a certain Sergi Roberto goal after Messi left Phil Jones chasing shadows, but he was again helpless as Barca struck a third on the hour mark, Coutinho sending a stunning strike beyond his outstretched right hand.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen made a magnificent 90th-minute save from substitute Alexis Sanchez, but United were well beaten and must now fight to turn around their recent form after a fifth defeat in seven games in all competitions.
What does it mean? Messi just warming up as United’s season falls apart
The optimism Solskjaer brought back to United appears to have run dry. They started positively but gifted Barca the tie with mistakes, making it eight years now without a semi-final appearance. A return to next year’s competition is no guarantee, either.
As for Barca, they might have looked short of their best at times across the two legs, but Messi looks like a man on a mission this season. With him in such form, a treble is very much on the cards.
Messi the master of ceremonies
The entire game seemed to dance to Messi’s tune. His second goal – his 45th of the season – might have been fortunate, but he deserves all the plaudits that come his way. He appears determined to get his hands on this trophy again.
De Gea is becoming a problem
There is simply no reason a goalkeeper of De Gea’s calibre should have allowed Messi’s second to go in. Solskjaer denied a recent suggestion from Gary Neville that De Gea has perhaps become distracted by ongoing contract talks, but the continued errors in his performances are difficult to ignore.
Key Opta Facts
– Barcelona have qualified for the Champions League semi-finals for the first time since the 2014-15 campaign under Luis Enrique.
– United have now been eliminated at the quarter-final stage on seven occasions – more than any other side.
– Messi scored his first Champions League quarter-final goals since April 2013, ending a run of 12 matches and 50 shots without a goal in last-eight matches.
– This was United’s heaviest aggregate defeat (0-4) in a two-legged European tie; their previous heaviest was 2-5 vs Milan in the 1957-58 European Cup semi-final and 1-4 vs Atletico Madrid in the last 16 of the 1991-92 Cup Winners’ Cup.
– United have lost four consecutive away matches in all competitions for the first time since October 1999 – current manager Solskjær featured in all four of those 1999 defeats.
– Messi has scored 45 goals in all competitions for Barcelona this season – 10 more than any other player in the top five European leagues.
– Spanish teams have lost just one of their last 24 Champions League knockout matches against English sides (W16 D7 L1), with Leicester City’s 2-0 win over Sevilla in March 2017 the only victory for an English team in that time.
Barca host Real Sociedad in LaLiga on Saturday, while United head to Everton in the Premier League on Sunday.
The Red Devils were outplayed during the first leg and were lucky to come away with just a 1-0 loss. Luke Shaw’s first half own goal was the difference, although Luis Suarez’s shot was headed into the goal regardless.
Manchester United did get back to winning ways at the weekend with a 2-1 victory over West Ham. The Red Devils struggled through the game and only won thank to two penalties from Paul Pogba.
The Frenchman has 16 goals this season, but eight of them have come from the penalty spot showing his scoring from open play has been lacking. Pogba was wholly ineffective against Barcelona in the first leg in front of goal as he failed to register a shot.
Barcelona head into the second leg at Camp Nou having drawn nil-nil with La Liga bottom club Huesca on Sunday. Manager Ernesto Valverde rotated his side with only goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen keeping his place.
The good news for Barcelona was Ousmane Dembele played over 65 minutes of the fixture. The Frenchman is getting his fitness back and could feature from the start against Manchester United.
Valverde rested Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. Neither player was in the team and watched from the stands. They will be well-rested for Manchester United’s arrival.
The trio missed the first leg with Fred and Scott McTominay filling in for Herrera and Matic. Shaw won’t play a part in the game as he serves a yellow card accumulation suspension.
Manchester United did overturn a two goal first leg deficit against Paris Saint-Germain in the previous round. The problem is, the Red Devils must corral Suarez and Messi, two players far more capable of causing Manchester United problems than those who were in PSG’s squad.
Barcelona must attack Manchester United as their defence has shown weaknesses over the last two seasons. It was at this stage in 2017-18 that Barcelona took a 4-1 first-leg lead to Italy against Roma. The Giallorossi scored three goals without reply to dump Barcelona out of the tournament.
That memory will be fresh in the Catalans’ minds as an away goal for Manchester United can completely change the tie. The opening should be cagey with both teams loosening up and going for goal. The second leg should see over 2.5 goals scored as the caution of the first leg wears off.
|On Tuesday night, La Liga champions Barcelona welcome Dutch outfit PSV Eindhoven to the Nou Camp, as both sides look to kick-off their Champions League campaigns with a victory.
Barcelona have been one of the heavyweights of this competition in recent seasons and last won the trophy in 2015. The Catalan giants exited the Champions League at the quarter-final stages last season after a shock away goals defeat to Italian side Roma.
The second leg defeat against the Giallorossi was their only Champions league defeat in 11 outings in the competition.
Barcelona’s Champions League games have been high scoring of late, with over 2.5 goals scored in their last three games in Europe’s elite competition.
The Catalan giants have been formidable opponents at the Nou Camp in this competition, winning 24 of their last 26 home games, while remaining unbeaten in the process.
The Blaugrana have also scored at least two goals in 16 of their last 17 home games in this competition.
PSV needed to beat BATE Borisov in a play-off game to make the group stages, dispatching the Belarussian side 6-2 on aggregate.
However, the Dutch sides only victories in the Champions league in their last ten outings have been against BATE. In fact, the visitors have won just four of their last 15 games in Europe’s elite competition.
PSV’s recent games in the Champions league have been high scoring, as five of their last seven games in the competition have produced over 2.5 goals.
The visitors have a poor recent away record in Europe’s elite competition, winning just one of their last nine games on their travels while suffering six defeats in the process.
The Dutch side has been poor defensively on their travels in their latest Champions leaguegames, conceding at least two goals in their last four outings.
Sportseconds predicts that Barcelona will kick-off their Champions league campaign with a comfortable victory in a high scoring encounter.
On Tuesday night, Chelsea host Catalan giants Barcelona at Stamford Bridge in the Champions League last 16 first leg tie.
Chelsea heads into this clash on the back of high scoring home victories over West Brom and Hull City in the Premier League and FA Cup respectively. The victories were much needed after consecutive defeats in the league against Bournemouth and Watford.
Antonio Conte’s side enjoyed a mixed group campaign in this competition. However, the Blues did beat Spanish opposition in Atletico Madrid in the group stages and also suffered just one defeat.
Chelsea have a decent recent home record in the Champions League, as the south London side have lost just one of their last 11 home games in Europe’s elite competition. The Blues have also been prolific at Stamford Bridge in the Champions League, scoring at least two goals in eight of their last ten European home games.
Barcelona heads to the English capital in good form. The Catalan giants are currently top of their domestic table and look set to seal another Spanish top-flight title.
Ernesto Valverde’s team also qualified from their Champions League group unbeaten. A big contributing factor to Barcelona’s unbeaten run was the fact that the Catalan side conceded just once in their six group games. In fact, they have kept clean sheets in six of their last seven European games.
Surprisingly, the visitors have a poor away record in the Champions League. They have drawn their last two games on their travels in Europe’s elite competition, but have won just one of their last five away games in the Champions League.
One other negative heading into this clash is that star forward Lionel Messi has failed to score against Chelsea in eight meetings with the Blues. The 30-year-old will be looking to put that record to bed in this clash.
Barcelona are favourites to go through to the quarter finals, but Forebet predicts that this game will end in an entertaining high scoring draw.
Barcelona took control of their Copa del Rey semi-final against Valencia after Luis Suarez’s second-half header ended the visitors’ resistance and secured a 1-0 first-leg win at Camp Nou on Thursday.
Ernesto Valverde’s men looked to be in for a frustrating outing as they struggled to turn their domination into something meaningful, but eventually Lionel Messi clicked into gear and provided Suarez with the chance to give Barca the advantage.
The first half was a long one for Valencia, who restricted Barca’s flow of chances but faced a seemingly endless barrage and only managed to see 21 per cent of the ball.
For all of Barca’s time in possession, however, they crafted little of note and struggled to break through Valencia’s packed defence.
Things were slightly more open after the interval, though Barca’s effectiveness in front of goal showed few signs of improvement, forcing Valverde to introduce Philippe Coutinho from the bench.
And with 23 minutes to go, Barca finally found a way through thanks to the combination of Messi and Suarez, securing a slender lead to take to Mestalla next Thursday.
In one sense, Barca could not have started the contest much better, as they dominated Valencia and attacked relentlessly, playing some wonderful football at times as they enjoyed 79 per cent possession in the first period.
Yet, due to a combination of Valencia’s stubborn rear-guard and Barca’s attackers not quite clicking, the chances just did not arrive.
Opportunities threatened to present themselves on a couple of occasions, but an uncharacteristically heavy Messi touch saw him accidentally juggle the ball out of play in the 22nd minute, and Jose Gaya covered well to prevent Suarez collecting a through ball soon after.
The closest they went to the breakthrough was in the 39th minute, as Andres Iniesta flashed the ball across the face of goal, but goalkeeper Jaume Domenech managed to divert it just behind the lurking Suarez with his fingertips and Barca finished the first half without a shot on target.
Presumably fresh from choice words courtesy of Valverde, it took Barca less than two minutes to craft the first chance of the second period, as Messi thrashed a left-footed effort into the side-netting from a tight angle.
The match’s first shot on target followed soon after, though it came at the other end – Dani Parejo testing Jasper Cillessen from distance.
Coutinho replaced Aleix Vidal just before the hour mark, but unsurprisingly it was Messi who stepped things up to set up the equaliser, clipping a ball to the back post, where Suarez headed home.
Messi nearly added a second four minutes from time, curling a 25-yard effort just wide of the bottom-left corner, but Valencia never threatened to make them rue that miss as Barca cruised to victory.
On Thursday night, Barcelona host Valencia at the Nou Camp, in the Copa del Rey semi-final first leg.
Barcelona heads into this game in good form, having won six of their last seven games in all competitions. The exception in that run of games was a 1-0 defeat at city rivals Espanyol in the last round of the Copa del Rey. The loss is Barcelona’s only defeat in their last 33 games in all competitions, while it is also their only defeat in their last 12 Copa del Rey outings.
Ernesto Valverde’s side have been prolific of late, scoring over 2.5 goals in six of their last seven games in all competitions.
The Catalan giants have won their last six home games in all competitions, scoring at least two goals in each victory. The home side have also kept five clean sheets in those six games.
Valencia heads into this clash on the back of inconsistent form after a good start to their Spanish top-flight campaign. Los Ches head to Catalonia on the back of a 4-1 home drubbing by Real Madrid last time out.
That means the visitors have now lost two of their last three games in all competitions. Their recent games have at least been high scoring, with over 2.5 goals scored in their last seven competitive outings.
Marcelino’s side will know that this is a tough challenge, especially as they needed penalty kicks to get past Alaves in the last round.
Los Ches recent away record is not great, as they have won just one of their last six games on the road in all competitions. Their last five games in all competitions have seen both teams score, though.
Sportseconds predicts that Barcelona will record a comfortable victory in a high scoring game at the Nou Camp.
Ernesto Valverde hailed Andres Iniesta’s enduring brilliance for helping Barcelona out of a tricky spot against Alaves.
The runaway LaLiga leaders were 18 minutes from a first top-flight defeat of the campaign after John Guidetti gave the struggling visitors a shock first-half lead at Camp Nou.
But goals from Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi turned the game on its head and secured a 2-1 win for Barca, restoring their 11-point advantage at the summit.
An impish dribble and delicate cross from Iniesta made the Uruguayan striker’s goal possible and Valverde was keen to pay tribute to the 33-year-old Spain great afterwards
“The truth is that we have good players who play in the interior role, but Iniesta is a master at that,” said Barca’s coach after guiding his side to a record-equalling 21-game unbeaten start to the top-flight campaign.
“I thought he could help us from there. It was important not to get too many of us in the Alaves box. It would have provoked counter-attacks.
“For that we needed players who move well in space like Leo and him. It was an extraordinary move and the goal let us breathe.”
Alaves saw late penalty appeals against Barcelona centre-back Samuel Umtiti rejected and protested to the officials after full-time, although Valverde was quick to dismiss their complaints.
“Apart from cutting off his hand, we couldn’t do anything,” he said, having seen Messi’s stunning free-kick seal maximum points six minutes from time. “I think it’s involuntary, but each one can see it from their point of view.
“Sometimes the ball goes in and they don’t give it, other times this can happen.
“They complained a lot about it. Umtiti told me it was not deliberate.
“There are always controversies – sometimes they hurt you and sometimes they help you.”
Philippe Coutinho began brightly on his full Barcelona debut, but was substituted after the hour as Valverde introduced striker Paco Alcacer to chase the game.
“They [players] are not machines who can just go into a new factory and start to work immediately, but I saw him doing well, involved in the play, wanting the ball,” said Valverde when asked about the Brazil playmaker’s performance.
“It’s another step. The other day he played 20 minutes and now a bit more. We will see him go in bit by bit.”