Friday, June 9, 2023

Brutal Barcelona reality check: Mbappe-inspired PSG show why Messi wanted to leave Camp Nou

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Match Statistics: Barcelona 1-4 Paris Saint-Germain

There was enthusiasm, there was spirit, but ultimately there was Kylian Mbappe and a brutal reality check for Barcelona.

Ronald Koeman’s side suffered a crushing 4-1 defeat to Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday night in the Champions League in the last 16, and they will need another “remount” to get out of this one. It doesn’t seem likely.

Their entire season is almost over, in terms of potential trophies, but this campaign has never looked promising on that front after last summer’s 8-2 annihilation by Bayern Munich and Lionel Messi’s escape attempt.

Koeman took over with the mandate to move on to some of the veterans and pass the young players on, while making sure Barcelona don’t shy away from themselves. So, it’s sad, but not surprising, that they find themselves here, more among the game’s elite teams.

They are on the verge of elimination in Europe, 2-0 in the Copa del Rey semi-finals against Sevilla, and eight points behind La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid, having played one more game.

A string of good results in 2021, Messi’s return to form and the rise of 18-year-old starlet Pedri Gonzalez have given Barcelona hope, which has grown further with injuries to Neymar and Angel di Maria who kept them away from this shock to go to Catalonia.

The pendulum has shifted from the favor of 2020 finalist PSG in the last draw of the 16 to Barcelona. Or that’s what we thought. The first half mirrored this in an end-to-end, roll-with-the-punches thriller.

Marc-André ter Stegen and the nervous Sergino Dest were able, between them, to stop Mbappe in the first minute, while Pedri’s sublime pass for Antoine Griezmann was spoiled by the striker.

Barcelona took the lead thanks to Messi, scoring his fourth Champions League goal this season, all from the penalty spot, after Layvin Kurzawa took down Frenkie de Jong.

It was an accidental move by the French full-back, a soft penalty that fueled the memories of the two conceded during the infamous 6-1 comeback in March 2017, but he made contact with the Dutchman.

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Messi’s penalty was categorically scored at home (no wonder Manchester City are interested in him!) And 2021 is now the 17th consecutive calendar year he has scored in the Champions League, tying the record of the legend of the Real Madrid Raul Gonzalez, established between 1995-2011.

Ousmane Dembele should have doubled Barcelona’s lead but sent a tame shot at Keylor Navas, which was a reminder of his infamous failure against Liverpool in the 2019 semi-final first leg that should have sent his side 4-0. Instead, the score stayed at three and we all know what happened at Anfield …

Barcelona were forced to pay, yesterday and today, with Mbappe pulling quickly at the level of PSG. If he had a lucky moment when his released key to control bounced off him instead of pulling away from him, there was nothing happy about what happened next.

With lightning reactions, he cut to the left and then passed Ter Stegen, into the roof of the net.

Mbappe’s little compatriot Griezmann shot wide at the other end on a powerful Barcelona counter as they showed they were still in the fight.

Mbappe’s influence only increased in the second half as he showed why he would be the real next football superstar, trying to take the reins from Messi himself in this game.

His second was a poacher finish and after unmarked Moise Kean headed into the third, Mbappe produced a brilliant coiled effort to kill Barcelona and the tie on a quick counter.

Barcelona rushed Gerard Pique back from an injury of almost three months for this game, but he could just as easily have stayed at home as Mbappe played with Barcelona, ​​who were still in retreat, waving and ultimately moving to collapse.

It wasn’t an 8-2 end-of-era humiliation like against Bayern, but it also didn’t prove a fair fight at the end. It showed how far Barcelona still have to go to reclaim what they once were.

It also shows why Messi desperately wanted to leave this summer, and why he might do it over the coming summer.

There may be even more to come down before Barcelona can get up again.



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