By Toyin Akiode
No one will bet against Barcelona after the miracle they pulled off a month ago at the Camp Nou in the second leg of the Champions League round of 16 against Paris Saint Germain.
It was the stuff of legends as the Catalans overturned a four-goal deficit in the first leg to win 6 – 5 on aggregate. That was the night that a new football history at the top level of European club completion was written.
But that was then!
Barcelona had lost immediately after that euphoric victory against Deportivo La Coruna, a team that could be termed a week opposition in Satander LaLiga. It was like a meteoric crash after glorious ascendance.
In similar fashion, their preparations for tonight’s quarter final first leg against Italy’s powerhouse Juventus was marred by an unexpected loss to Malaga.
Barcelona has had a rough schooling in the hands of Italian oppositions in the past. Chief was the four nil spanking by AC Millan in the finals of 1994.
The Catalan have moved on and are now favourites, at least in the past 12 years to triumph over any Italian opposition. Will they stay true to this against Massimiliano Allegri’s Juventus?
Juventus have become what AC Milan used to be in Serie A – dominating. With five consecutive league wins and a sixth on the horizon; the Old Lady is as tough a customer as any for any opposition in Europe.
For all their successes at home however, Juventus haven’t managed to stamp their authority in Europe as their Spanish opponent has done in the last 12 years. They have only one trophy to their name in the modern times.
Against Barcelona, they must play at their best to get anything. A good result at home will put them in good stead for the second leg.
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Dilemma. Should they go all out and play into the hands of the Catalans or stay patient and risk losing? It is certainly a tough call for Allegri to make.
Head to Head.
Many are of the view that for Barcelona, the quality remains but something is awry with the spirit.
In order to define boundaries, Luis Enrique must rouse his undoubtedly talented team to go after Juventus in Turin with gusto to alert the world that Barcelona still reigns!