Valverde no closer to fixing Barcelona’s poor away form
The facts show that Barcelona beat Slavia Prague 2-1 on Wednesday and now top Group F by three points at the midway point, but the reality is that Ernesto Valverde’s side were poor again away from home in Europe.
Lionel Messi had given them the perfect start inside three minutes, stroking home Arthur’s pass, and it looked at that point that the visitors could go on and put in a commanding performance against the Czech champions.
However, that did not happen and Slavia Prague can consider themselves unlucky not to have taken a point off the Spanish champions. The hosts had almost double the amount of shots (24 to Barca’s 13) and Barca were really hanging on in stoppage time.
But none of this is news. Barca have been poor away from home for some time now. The defeats to Roma and Liverpool have caught the headlines but Barca have also failed to win at Dortmund, Lyon, Chelsea, Juventus and Olympiakos under Valverde. Wednesday’s win was just their fifth in their last 15 away matches in Europe
Valverde spoke afterwards about managing games better, Ter Stegen said the team need to talk and Gerard Pique has previously spoken about Barca having a “mental block” against Liverpool after losing at Roma. Yet what is clear is that Barca can’t win the European Cup unless they can figure out what’s going wrong away from home.
Suarez’s lengthy drought continues
And when it comes to Barcelona’s away form it’s impossible not to mention Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan came into the game with five goals in his last four games but with a terrible record in Europe.
0 - Luis Suarez is goalless in his last 19 away UEFA Champions League matches, attempting 59 shots without success since a goal against Roma in September 2015. Challenge. pic.twitter.com/k04QyaESoS— OptaJose (@OptaJose) October 23, 2019
He was pretty dire again throughout the 90 minutes against Slavia. He wasted two fine chances to end his long drought and probably thought he had scored the winner, only to see it go down as an Peter Olayinka own goal.
Incredibly Suarez has now gone 20 games and over four years without scoring in the Champions League. For a player of his quality it is an extraordinary statistic and one that is hurting Barcelona.
Yet Suarez is not the only player struggling for goals in the Champions League. Lionel Messi has been doing his best but Barca’s next highest scorer over the last two seasons is own goal.
7 - Barcelona top scorers in Champions League since 2017/18:— OptaJose (@OptaJose) October 23, 2019
19 - Lionel Messi
7 - OWN GOALS
4 - Luis Suárez
4 - Ousmane Dembélé
Barcelona and Suarez will no doubt be relieved that their next two Champions League fixtures are at home to Slavia Prague and Dortmund, and they may have qualification already sewn up by the time they hit the road again and head to the San Siro.
Ter Stegen saves Barcelona again
Marc-Andre ter Stegen was Barca’s shining light in their last Champions League away match at Dortmund and was their best player once again in the Czech Republic.
He made a crucial double save from Lukas Masopust and Olayinka in the first half that helped Barcelona go in at the break with their lead intact.
12 - Marc-Andre ter Stegen has saved 12 of the 13 shots on target he has faced in Champions League this season (92.3%). Colossus. pic.twitter.com/pnnZBHksl2— OptaJose (@OptaJose) October 23, 2019
Ter Stegen was beaten early in the second half as Jan Boril equalised for the hosts and made his displeasure at his team’s defending pretty clear after the match when talking to Movistar.
“They scored against us right on the first chance of the second half. This can’t happen to us, I was quite alone. He doesn’t do anything special, he takes a pass and it’s just ahead of the goal.”
Slavia might have had another too if it weren’t for Germany’s finest. He saved headers from Tomas Soucek and Olayinka in stoppage time as Barca clung on to the win thanks in large part to their goalkeeper.