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Brittle Barcelona’s bad night at the office

Collective misery for the Blaugranes

Manchester United v FC Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final: First Leg Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

As Champions League quarter-final performances go, Barcelona’s at Manchester United probably wasn’t far off of the Roma horror show from exactly a year ago.

The only difference is that they somehow managed to ensure that the Red Devils didn’t have a shot on target in a UCL game for the first time in 2005, whilst grabbing a precious away goal to take back to the Camp Nou.

That will be of little consolation to the travelling band of Cules, and those that watched on from home.

Barca looked brittle in defence, with Clement Lenglet having one of his worst games of the season alongside Gerard Pique.

Arthur and Philippe Coutinho didn’t offer an awful lot and were rightly hooked on the hour mark, whilst Sergio Busquets looked unusually nervous in possession.

Even Lionel Messi failed to inspire for long periods, with the visitors’ play incredibly sloppy and not close to the level that we know they can play at.

Frankly, it wasn’t the performance of potential European champions, and against better sides, the Catalans will surely be punished.

That they weren’t gives Valverde hope that, in front of 99,000 of their adoring supporters, they won’t play that badly again and will go through.

United have a few experienced campaigners in their ranks, but the likes of Scott McTominay et al, won’t have known pressure like it, and that’s where Barca must ram home their advantage.

The Blaugranes need each and every player to step things up another gear in order to ensure a smooth passage into the semi-finals.

For the passes to be much crisper. The movement to open up the passing lanes much more incisive. The crosses much more accurate and the finishing much more decisive.

Of all the players, only Gerard Pique, on his return to Old Trafford, and Marc-Andre ter Stegen can hold their heads high.

It’s largely thanks to the former that his side retain the lead in the tie going into the second leg, but an early United goal - which they’ll absolutely look for - will change everything.

Valverde too has to up the ante, to get his tactics and personnel spot on or risk seeing his team depart the premier European competition at the quarter-final stage for the fourth season in a row.

Seeing how static United’s full-backs were at times, it’s a second leg that’s crying out for a cameo from Malcom too.

Frankly, the less said about Wednesday night the better. Let’s dust ourselves down and move on. Quickly...

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