It all caught up with Paris Saint-Germain last night. So many high-stake matches, injuries and suspensions in a short space of time was our downfall against a wonderful football team in Barcelona as they ran out 1-3 winners to more or less end the tie as a contest.
In what was a disappointing night for the club, in no way can we be too downtrodden in what has been 10 fantastic days. The ‘classique’ win, booking a spot in the Coupe de France final and of course the Coupe de la Ligue triumph. Whatever happened against Barca in a positive sense would have been a bonus but ultimately we come up short.
The Catalans ran out comfortable winners in the end in a second-half inspired by Luis Suarez. Their three away goals have more or less knocked us out of the competition unless we can perform a miracle of some sorts in the Camp Nou which is unlikely.
Coach Laurent Blanc had some big decisions to make, particularly on who started in midfield. With Thiago Motta and Marco Verratti out, who would join Blaise Matuidi in the central trio? Well it would be a French threesome as Yohan Cabaye was given the duty of anchorman. And after his performance in the cup final, Adrien Rabiot was handed a start.
Edinson Cavani led the attack, supported by Ezequiel Lavezzi and Javier Pastore. Lucas Moura would start on the bench as would David Luiz who I will come onto.
The start from both sides was tentative as you would expect. We were happy to let them have the ball but when we were in possession, we showed some bright moments. Pastore had a golden opportunity early on as he came charging into the box but completely miscued his shot. The early signs though were positive.
Then Barca started to show their quality. The genius that is Lionel Messi opened up some space for himself on the edge of the box and curled one that look destined for the corner but rattled the post to the Parc’s relief.
Minutes later, they were ahead thanks to Neymar. We were cut to ribbons here as Marquinhos came out of position which allowed Messi to find Neymar in space with a through ball which the Brazilian finished with ease. From our perspective, it is a goal that could have been avoided. But the clinical nature of the move and subsequent finish deserves acclaim. It was vintage Barca.
As soon as they scored, the skipper Thiago Silva had to come off injured. When it rains in Paris, it pours! So Luiz who was just last week ruled out for a month was about to play 70 minutes and unfortunately it would play a part later on.
The visitors were in total control from then on in. It was all one way traffic but when we did get on the ball we continued to show some positivity. There was an instance when Lavezzi found Cavani in space but his error of judgment let him down as he tried to find Pastore. It was little things like that, we lacked decisiveness at vital moments which you can ill afford to do against a team of this calibre.
After the break we were in the game, albeit for a short burst. Pastore had a decent effort on goal but to be honest, Ter Stegen had a relatively quiet night.
The final 25 minutes would turn into the Luis Suarez show. Luiz’s lack of fitness showed as he was nutmegged not once, but twice as Suarez made it 2-0 before ensuring Barca’s passage with a third. Luiz will suffer criticism for his part in both goals. Yes, it was poor – but what do you expect from a player who was clearly unfit? You do not make a miraculous recovery a week after being ruled out for a month. He was not himself; and particularly with the third goal maybe he was concious about doing his hamstring even more damage? It was an odd one all-round to be honest. He should never have been in the squad let alone coming on for 70 minutes. That decision of course falls at the coach.
Gregory Van der Wiel ended up aiding a Mathieu own goal which was a consolation but it does give a smidgen of hope for next week – just a smidge.
There were no complaints with the result. The best team won by a mile and they ended our 33-game unbeaten home run in Europe. It was a record which lasted since 2006 which is a phenomenal achievement.
It is a disappointment but after what the lads have done in the last few months, any over the top criticism will be harsh. As I said, due to the circumstances anything here would have been a bonus. The defending was awful for all three goals but you cannot discredit the ruthlessness from a fantastic Barca team that can quite easily win the whole competition.