4 Reasons Why Barcelona Won't Win The Champions League
This week sees the quarter-finals of the Champions League commence with Barcelona travelling to Paris to take on PSG. Heading into quarter-final fixtures Barcelona sit top of the odds with bookmakers all over Europe posting them as favourites to win this year's Champions League final at Wembley. Today on the blog Amit Singh gives us 4 reasons why what many consider the greatest club in European football, may not go on to glory in 2013.
Barcelona emphatically came back from 2-0 down against Milan to progress to the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League. At 2-0 down from the first leg many fans had written Barcelona off, but having over-turned the deficit they are now many peoples’ favourites to lift the trophy.
Whilst they were brilliant at home to Milan, the 2-0 defeat in the San Siro demonstrates that the cracks are showing and that Barcelona's weaknesses can be exploited by top quality opposition. It is not a given that the side will win the 2013 Champions League and there are several reasons why they might not.
1) Difficulty Against Counter-Attacking Defensive Sides
In recent weeks we have seen Barcelona lose three fixtures against counter-attacking sides; twice to Madrid and once to Milan. This implies that for a team to beat Barcelona they have to defend deep and stubbornly, whilst looking to exploit the side on the counter.
Real Madrid did this excellently with two sitting midfielders and with a real direct threat on the break in Di Maria and Ronaldo, who can get at any defenders. PSG might take heed from this and look to defend and counter. With quality up top they are capable of causing Barcelona problems, despite the fact that they only just made it through vs. Valencia.
Even if they do get past PSG, Barcelona may face Munich who themselves are more than capable of utilising counter-attacking play.
2) An Over-Reliance On Messi?
Messi has been in unbelievable form this season scoring 42 goals and assisting a further ten. However, there is a concern that the club might be over-reliant on him for goals and inspiration. Messi has scored 48% of his sides goals in La Liga. A higher contribution than any other player for their respective club. Further to this if we include his ten assists Messi has had a direct hand in 59% of his clubs goals.
Whilst this is indicative of what a fine player he is, it does point to a relative over-reliance and in one off matches such as the Champions League where his influence might be nullified the club struggle to have an impact as was the case in Milan. Remarkably, after Messi, the clubs next top domestic goal scorer is David Villa with just 8 goals. This tends to confirm the view that if you stop Messi you can stop Barcelona from firing, something that clubs in the tournament might be looking at.
3) Leaky Backline
Defending has been an issue for the side for some time now but the problems have been more exploited by opposition sides this term. Even domestically, where they have been running riot, they have conceded 31 goals, two more goals than they conceded the whole of last season. The personnel are weak and Barca have been consistently linked with new centre-backs. Pique is the pick of the bunch but he is partnered most regularly by former Liverpool midfielder Javier Mascherano who is not the tallest or most physical defender and is often guilty of pressing too high up the field to win the ball, leaving gaps in behind.
More worryingly for Barcelona is the lack of depth in their back line. Jordi Alba will return from injury for the first leg against PSG, whilst back-up left back Adriano is out for six weeks. This an area that the side can be exploited and we saw Milan threaten in behind at the Camp Nou, particularly when Niang was released only to hit the post.
This weakness in behind, as well as a weakness dealing with aerial balls might see the side struggle when dealing with a player like Ibrahimovic who is particularly physical.
4) No Plan B?
In football we often talk about a 'mythical Plan B,' a supposed magic potion for when a side's usual style of play is struggling. In England this often revolves around having a huge, burly centre-forward on the bench to lump it to.
Whilst this is at times over-exaggerated, it is the case that Barcelona don't always have enough variation if their style of play is not working. When the side are struggling against a tight defence, like we saw versus Milan at the San Siro, they struggle to break them down as highlighted above. As such a variation in play would benefit the club, be it a more direct option or even more natural width as their forwards tend to come inside and take up similar positions.
The game in the San Siro as noted highlighted several flaws with the current Barcelona side. AC Milan were incredibly organised and patient in this game, defending in lines and making it difficult for Barcelona to exploit the space. This is even more effective if the side defend deep making it tougher for Barcelona to exploit space behind with quick passing and clever movement. In this fixture Barcelona only managed 1 shot on goal, which is a worrying trend.
The Odds: Barcelona remain favourites with the bookmakers to win the Champions League this season, with a best price of 2.65 on offer from Bwin. Real Madrid are second with the bookies with BetVictor offering odds of 3.50 while Bayern Munich are at odds of 5.70 with Pinnacle.
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