Catastrophic away form the biggest barrier to Barca’s European ambitions
Barcelona’s shock 4-0 defeat by Liverpool which sent them out of the Champions League laid bare the Catalan side’s horrendous away record which continues to hold them back in Europe’s elite competition, which they want to win above anything else.
Ernesto Valverde’s side’s capitulation at Anfield, which sent them out 4-3 on aggregate after winning the first leg 3-0, brought back memories of their 3-0 loss at AS Roma after taking a 4-1 lead in the tie to exit last year’s competition.
But the result at Anfield was merely the latest example of a worrying trend for the Catalans in Europe whenever they venture away from the Nou Camp, where they are unbeaten in their last 32 Champions League games.
Since last winning the continental competition in 2015, Barca have conceded a staggering 17 goals and only scored four in nine away games in the knockout stages, losing six times, drawing once and winning just twice.
Their record at home against the same opposition has been almost flawless, winning eight out of nine games, drawing once while scoring 29 goals and conceding five, but it has not been enough to take them back to the final they crave so badly.
“The worst thing is that this has happened again, that we have taken the lead but gone out in the same way,” Valverde said.
“When you have a disaster of this proportion the next few days are horrible, we must have our mourning period and then pull ourselves together again.”
While Valverde is facing fierce criticism in the Spanish media for his poor game management at Anfield and presiding over two of the club’s most painful European defeats, the team also struggled in European away matches before he took charge.
Luis Enrique oversaw a resounding 3-0 defeat by Juventus in a quarter-final first leg which led to their exit in 2017, while they were thrashed 4-0 at Paris St Germain in the last 16, even though they still progressed with a 6-1 win in the second leg.
A year earlier, meanwhile, Barca blew a 2-1 lead from a quarter-final first leg by losing 2-0 away to fellow Spaniards Atletico Madrid, which showed their weak away displays do not only come when they go overseas.
Even when Barca reached four successive semi-finals and won the competition in 2009 and 2011 under Pep Guardiola, they still struggled on away trips, winning three of 12 knockout games away from the Nou Camp under the Catalan coach.
But while they used to be able to lean on their home form to make amends, Barca’s away results in Europe are so bad they are shackling the team’s progress in the competition.
REUTERS/Reporting by Richard Martin Editing by Christian Radnedge