A lot has been said about Barcelona’s Champions League performances in recent years, and it’s no secret that the club has not fulfilled its lofty European ambitions.
A string of early exits means the last time they won the trophy, Zlatan Ibrahimovic was still a Paris Saint-Germain player.
Now 2015 isn’t too far off where we are today but for a club like Barcelona three years without a European crown is disappointing, even more so when Real Madrid have been racking them up.
The club has moved on from the bitter agony of last season’s defeat to Roma and will look forward to the coming UEFA Champions League journey starting on Tuesday against Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven. But what should be their strategy? Let’s find out.
Eredivisie champions PSV arrive in fine form, as they sit at the top of the league after winning all of their five games, scoring 21 goals and conceding a mere three in the process.
Hirving Lozano, the Mexican prodigy who has been linked with the Blaugrana, is lighting up the Eredivisie again having scored four goals and grabbed an assist in five appearances.
Dutch international Luuk de Jong is another player doing exceptionally well with three goals and an assist, and so are Angelino, Steven Bergwijn and Gaston Pereiro, the latter a revelation this year. They will come with their strongest line-up for this fixture.
Meanwhile, Ernesto Valverde is showing signs of distrust with regards his new signings as Barcelona are expected to show up with the familiar lineup, a 4-3-3 with Sergi Roberto at right-back.
Ousmane Dembele is finally showing his class, scoring three times in as many appearances and he is expected to start again. Lionel Messi has the armband now and with it huge responsibility, yet it looks like he is relishing every moment, stepping up when his team needs him.
Samuel Umtiti on the other hand, is looking shaky after his World Cup exploits and needs to bring his A-game this time. A routine game or a fixture with a few hiccups, it all depends on how the Blaugrana play.
PSV are exceptional when it comes to aerial duels with players like Luuk de Jong taking full advantage of their height; their style of play involves attempting a lot of shots. It is interesting to note that they were the team with the highest percentage of aerial duals won (54.9) and the second highest in registering shots, with around 20 per game last season.
Their ability to win aerial duels gives them the upper hand at defending set pieces as well as taking them. Their style of play includes lots of short passes, emphasis on through balls, attempting shots whenever possible and attacking down the wings.
For Barcelona, less focus on aerial balls and a more reactive midfield, the kind which aggressively intercepts every ball and applies more pressure, is the key. Sergio Busquets has to start while Arturo Vidal can be used as a second half substitute.
The key focus should be on intercepting their passes as they lack passing accuracy (less than 80% last year). Their defence however good, has shown signs of weakness against long shots which gives opportunity for the likes of Coutinho and Messi to go for goal.
Their affinity towards controlling the play in the opposition half and low passing accuracy mean we can take a leaf out of our biggest rival’s book and counter attack our way to victory. Though that is least likely to happen, it can be a way and Ousmane Dembele for one, will approve it.
Fact: This is the seventh time the two sides have met and the Blaugranes have a far superior record (W2 D3 L1). Also, Barcelona have won 24 of their last 26 UCL matches at the Camp Nou, drawing the other two. Their last home UCL defeat came in May 2013 against Bayern Munich, a shocker of a 3-0 defeat.