Nightmare hits Barca: Enrique

The body language of Lionel Messi (left) and Neymar speaks volumes in the 3-0 Champions League defeat by Juventus.
The body language of Lionel Messi (left) and Neymar speaks volumes in the 3-0 Champions League defeat by Juventus. PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Anguish of Champions League defeat by Juve haunts Spaniard, but Allegri cites 'first step'

TURIN (Italy) • Barcelona coach Luis Enrique admitted that it would be difficult for his side to pull off another great escape after they again suffered a heavy first-leg defeat in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Having overcome a 4-0 first-leg deficit against Paris Saint-Germain in the previous round with a 6-1 win at home, Barca were beaten 3-0 at Juventus in their quarter-final first leg in Turin.

Paulo Dybala scored twice to put Juve 2-0 ahead inside 22 minutes and Giorgio Chiellini headed in the third early in the second half in a rousing performance by the Italian side.

"This time, it's more difficult to believe in a comeback," said Enrique. "It was like reliving a nightmare... I can't get the first half out of my head.

"It was a very difficult first half, very similar to the one in Paris (when Barcelona also conceded twice before the break), and although we improved after half-time, the first half was full of problems...

"Tomorrow will be the time to get up again and think that we have to score three goals to level the tie and four to win it."​

  • 2 Juventus have conceded only two goals in nine Champions League games this season.

Much of his gloom stems from the fact that Juventus are extremely difficult to break down. The Italian champions have conceded just twice in nine Champions League games this season while letting in only 20 goals in 31 Serie A games.

But Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri wants to make sure his team do not get carried away with one of their best performances under his leadership. "We have to put some brakes on our enthusiasm," he said.

"Of course, the lads have produced a great performance, both in attack and in defence. But it's just the first step. In Barcelona, it will be different and we have to try and score a goal."

Juventus could have taken a greater advantage into the return leg next Wednesday as Gonzalo Higuain, usually the side's most dangerous marksman, missed two chances that he would usually have snapped up.

Barca had 65 per cent of the possession but were strangely ponderous in midfield and leaky at the back, where they could not cope with the pace and aggression of Mario Mandzukic or Juan Cuadrado on the flanks.

The match pitted Chiellini against Barcelona forward Luis Suarez for the first time since the infamous incident at the 2014 World Cup when the Uruguayan bit the Italian. And the defender, who missed Juventus' 2015 Champions League final loss to Barca, was the surprise name on the scoresheet, netting for the first time in this competition since October 2009.

Chiellini could also take pride in a crucial clean sheet, shutting the Spanish champions out as Malaga did in LaLiga on Saturday, when they won 2-0.

"It's obvious that we did something important," he said.

"We were able to stop Barcelona from scoring and that is historic.

"For Barcelona to not score in two out of the last three games is almost impossible."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 13, 2017, with the headline 'Nightmare hits Barca: Enrique'. Print Edition | Subscribe