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Steely Juventus shut down Barca to kill off comeback hopes

April 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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Barcelona’s hopes of staging another sensational Champions League comeback fell flat against a hardened Juventus side who held the Catalans to a 0-0 draw on Wednesday at the Nou Camp to reach the semi-finals 3-0 on aggregate.

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The Italian champions barely gave Barca a glimmer of hope of repeating their historic turnaround against Paris St Germain in the last 16 and protected their healthy advantage from the first leg by starving the hosts of space and clear sights of goal.

Lionel Messi came closest to giving Barca a route back into the contest with four strikes at goal but failed to hit the target with any of them and frequently came up short against Juve’s intimidating centre-back pairing of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci.

Twice European champions Juve lacked the spark and power of their thrilling first-leg victory in Turin, but there was rarely any doubt they would exact revenge for their defeat to Barca in the 2015 Champions League final by reaching the semis for a 12th time.

Barca coach Luis Enrique had said before the game that if Barca managed to strike early then the noise of the Nou Camp would suck the other goals in.

Juventus, however, showed in the opening stages that they are made of sterner stuff than PSG, who gave up a 4-0 first-leg advantage Massimiliano Allegris side pressed Barca in their own half and limited the supply to the front three.

Messi almost managed to pick out Jordi Alba with a hooked pass and later played a one-two with the Spaniard before dragging narrowly wide of the far post.

Ivan Rakitic and Neymar also missed the target with hopeful efforts but Juventus’ aggressive gameplan limited how much attacking Barca could do without leaving themselves exposed.

Gonzalo Higuain cracked a shot over the bar before the break while the probing Juan Cuadrado almost picked out the Argentine striker in the middle, but was thwarted by a brilliant block from Gerard Pique.

Barca increased their grip on possession after the break and spent most of the remainder of the game in their opponents’ half trying to carve out chances, but Juve were always ready for them.

Messi whipped a free kick onto the roof of the net and slammed another shot wide before spurning his best chance, a volley which fizzed over the bar.

Barca right back Sergi Roberto attempted a repeat of his heroic strike against PSG, but also missed the target, unable to prevent his side’s second successive elimination at the quarter-final stage, which will provoke much soul-searching at the five-times European champions.

PSG sweat over Ibra fitness for Barca clash

September 29, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

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Paris St Germain are sweating over striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s fitness as the French champions look fragile ahead of Barcelona’s visit in Champions League Group F on Tuesday.

After drawing their first game at Ajax Amsterdam, Laurent Blanc’s side have little room for error against in-form Barcelona, who demolished Granada 6-0 in La Liga at the weekend.

PSG have been without Ibrahimovic for two matches as the Sweden striker suffers from heel pains and his absence was felt in a lacklustre 1-1 draw at Toulouse on Saturday.

PSG are unbeaten this season but they have drawn six of their nine games in all competitions and it seems only Ibrahimovic can bring the sparkle back.

“The staff will do everything they can so he can be fixed in time,” Blanc said on Saturday.

“With injuries, you don’t do what you want. Be patient. There is always a question mark.” Without Ibrahimovic, Blanc could field Edinson Cavani as a number nine up front but the Uruguay striker has not been in brilliant form this season.

Jean-Christophe Baheback could be a possibility as he scored PSG’s goal against Toulouse on Saturday. Brazilian Lucas could also start as the forward has been showing glimpses of his best lately.

PSG could also be without Argentine forward Ezequiel Lavezzi who picked up a thigh injury last week in a 2-0 win against Caen.

Barca do not have that kind of problem going into the Parc des Princes clash.

Neymar and Lionel Messi struck five goals between them in the Granada rout and it was a further example of the growing understanding between the pair.

The Brazilian got his second hat-trick as a Barca player while Messi’s double saw him bring up 400 goals for club and country.

“The first year was a case of adaptation but I now feel better and able to perform at a higher level,” Neymar told reporters in Spain.
“We are combining more as a pair and I am very happy with the goals I am getting at the moment which is down to the work of the team.”

Following a season where all the major trophies escaped them, Luis Enrique has come in and restored the emphasis on bringing through youth players and playing the short passing football that became famous under Pep Guardiola.

He has also concentrated on making the defence more solid and they are yet to concede a goal so far. In La Liga they have only dropped two points in a 0-0 draw away to Malaga last week.

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