At 1-0 down to Napoli and without a single first-half shot on target, things were once again looking bleak for the Blaugranes on the road in the Champions League.
Quite why Quique Setien left Arthur on the bench in favour of Ivan Rakitic is anyone’s guess, but let’s give credit to Napoli for stifling the life out of us in the first half rather than dwelling on that one decision.
Once Antoine Griezmann got us back into the game, we were much the better side for a good 15-20 minutes, and that has to be encouraging for this team, moving forward.
Griezmann today became the first Barça player other than Messi to score an away goal in UCL knockout stages since Neymar against Bayern in 2015. pic.twitter.com/SnA8J3biA8— barcacentre (@barcacentre) February 25, 2020
The lack of strength in depth was regrettable - I’m not even sure I’ve seen such an inexperienced Barca bench in a long, long time, but in many respects the visitors got the job done.
I think I’d be right in saying that most people reading this would’ve taken a draw beforehand, against a team that has beaten Liverpool in the recent past.
Notwithstanding the above we could certainly have done without Arturo Vidal losing his head. The Chilean is better than that, and his red card coming so soon after Sergio Busquets had got himself ruled out of the return as well was a hammer blow for the team.
- Arturo Vidal receives a red card and will be suspended for the 2nd leg, just like Busquets. pic.twitter.com/ffYVPQE1vM— (@TheEuropeanLad) February 25, 2020
Some might say that it will ensure that Frenkie de Jong and Arthur have to therefore play together. Silver linings and all that.
That’s as maybe, but the fact Setien will be unable to call upon either of Busi and Arturo at any point might prove awkward.
Talking of which, an El Clasico without Gerard Pique doesn’t bear thinking about. It was a nasty fall for the centre-back, and one can only hope that it’s a sprain that a bit of rest will cure.
If not, a centre-back pairing, potentially, of Samuel Umtiti and Clement Lenglet is likely to prove disastrous against the pace of Vinicius Jr. if he plays, or Gareth Bale.
Surely Ronald Araujo has to get the nod or perhaps Jean-Clair Todibo. Oh, wait....
Busquets: “We don’t have a very deep squad because unfortunately they planned it like that”.— De Ara Torres (@dearatorres) February 25, 2020
Busquets firing shots aiming at Bartomeu and the board. And he’s not wrong for it. pic.twitter.com/AEkRbH0iKl
Sergio Busquets’ post-match quote regarding squad depth certainly put the cat amongst the pigeons and coming so soon after Leo’s interview suggesting Barca aren’t good enough to win the Champions League this season, you get the feeling that the seal has been broken now and the players are finally starting to round on the board.
How that plays out in the coming weeks will be interesting.
In the meantime, we can at least hang on to what is still a positive result, it’s just a shame that it came at such a cost.