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Explaining why Barcelona got knocked out of the Champions League by PSG

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Photo by JOSEP LAGO/AFP via Getty Images

Rome, Anfield, and Lisbon – Barcelona’s three colossal exits from the UEFA Champions League were all united by one factor – they all happened away from home.

Joining the dots, it appeared that Barcelona’s deficiency was in sustaining pressure away from home in the second leg of big matches.

Having secured a 3-2 win over PSG at Parc des Princes last week, this year finally seemed to be the year they could progress past a European giant as they boasted of the home advantage in the second leg.

However, it was simply not meant to be. A series of unfortunate events, both warranted and unwarranted, saw the Blaugranas fall apart in front of their own fans helplessly last night as Luis Enrique pioneered a comeback for PSG against Barcelona.

The list of things that went wrong for Xavi’s men last night is long and endless, ranging from questionable refereeing decisions to penalty inequalities.

A decision that cost a million tears

With a two-goal lead on aggregate, and thousands of voices cheering them on in unison, Barcelona’s night was going perfectly. Close to 30 minutes into the game, the Catalans were cruising to a place in the semifinal.

The moment that changed everything for Barcelona. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Just before the half-hour mark, however, arrived at a juncture where Ronald Araujo was forced to make a critical decision – one that he got wrong and destroyed the game for the entire team.

With PSG’s Bradley Barcola through on goal, the Uruguayan could either have let the youngster through on a 1v1 against Marc-Andre ter Stegen or brought him down with a professional foul, risking a red card.

Just 30 minutes into the game, conceding one goal would still see the hosts ahead and give them a chance to fight for more. Araujo’s decision to hastily take the player down, however, did save the goal but at the cost of a man.

A precious man down, Barcelona were left to fend off PSG who suddenly ramped up the intensity in attack sensing the opportunity. The team soon fell apart, and understandably so as they were a man down for over an hour on the night.

Most importantly, Araujo’s sending-off forced Xavi to take Lamine Yamal off, thus removing Barcelona’s biggest threat in attack. Not only was the defence compromised but the attack was directly affected.

Failure to maximise resources

Playing a man down, chances do not come by as often as one would hope. After all, playing through the opposition defence who simply outnumber bodies on the field is outright difficult.

Failure to take their chances hurt Barcelona. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Yet, Barcelona did manage to create a few openings after the Uruguayan defender’s sending-off, often coming close to scoring. Robert Lewandowski, Ilkay Gundogan and Raphinha all came close to finding the back of the net but could not take their half-chances.

One cannot fault the players for not taking the slight chances, but had they capitalised, the script may have been different.

Barcelona’s inability to maximise the countable chances they enjoyed ultimately comes down to the team’s mental game which simply was not up to the mark last night.

The Blaugranas appeared to mentally fall apart the moment Araujo was sent off, and their spirited performance to that point suddenly went dull. Defensively as well, they never really looked solid enough to hold onto the two-goal lead they enjoyed.

Barcelona’s exit from the competition does not hurt half as much as the manner in which they went down.

The team did indeed show character until the setback, but there are many teams in Europe that would have held on through thick and thin to defend the two-goal cushion even with a man down.

Immaturity at the helm

While their dream of a UCL semifinal spot was crumbling in front of the players at Montjuic, Barcelona required a calm presence on the bench to urge them on and keep them on their toes. Fire, after all, cannot be neutralised by fire.

Xavi’s touchline antics earned him a red card, again. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Xavi’s antics on the sidelines last night, however, were more panicky than those of the players themselves. He may be the greatest Culer at heart, but his poise and attitude to a setback in the game were simply disappointing.

Instead of staying on the sidelines and pushing his men forward, manipulating the dynamics and taking control, Xavi simply burst out in temper and had himself sent off.

His moving off the sidelines did not help his case as the manager of Barcelona, nor did it help the players in any way. If anything, it showed the Spanish tactician’s immaturity in handling pressure which is simply not acceptable at a level as high as the UCL.

It is the umpteenth time that Xavi has been sent off from the sidelines for overtime protest, and at some point, one begins to wonder if the fault does indeed lie with the manager.

Xavi may be the engineer of Barcelona’s current resurrection, but his composure and understanding on the sidelines require plenty of refinement.

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