Two Reasons Barcelona Blew a First Leg Advantage Against PSG

Paris Saint-Germain produced a sensational comeback against Barcelona in the second leg of the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League to book their spot in the semis.

Xavi’s men looked to make it through to their first semifinals in the UCL since 2019 after they took a 3-2 lead advantage at the Parc des Princes, with Raphinha putting them up 1-0 in the return leg at Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys on the night after 12 minutes to make the tie 4-2 on aggregate.

Luis Enrique’s men, however, did their own remontada after Ronald Araujo was given his marching orders for a last-man foul on Bradley Barcola. Ideally, the Catalan outfit ought to have capitalized on their early lead. The 12th-man support should also have galvanized them into seeing Les Parisiens out of Europe’s premier football club competition on their home ground.

While Barcelona is having a rollercoaster of a season – further exacerbated by a defeat in El Clásico – they seem to have found their form lately. Ever since Xavi made the announcement to leave the club at the end of the season, Barcelona was on a 12-game unbeaten run and twice only lost one game since he made the announcement. But PSG’s attacking force seemed too much for Barcelona’s defense to keep at bay.

In light of this, here are the circumstances that facilitated PSG’s comeback to send the Spanish side out of the Champions League.

Barcelona’s Midfield Was Missing in Action

The main reason why Barcelona bottled a 4-2 aggregate lead against Paris Saint-Germain was because they could not control the game. It is very surprising to see that a midfield trio of Fabian Ruiz, Vitinha, and Warren Zaïre-Emery dominated a game where the opposition possessed quality players like İlkay Gündoğan, Pedri, and Frankie De Jong.

From the first leg to the return leg, Barca’s gameplan was obviously getting the ball to Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who would then launch it to Robert Lewandowski. They could not play through the midfield, as their midfield looked non-existent. They were practically running around like a headless chicken.

It was evident, as Gündoğan only completed three passes in the first 37 minutes of the game. The ball was going long to Lewandowski and coming straight back.

Lamine Yamal Was Sacrificed for 10-man Barca

While Araujo’s red card worsened Barcelona’s woes, Xavi weakened the attack in order to maintain defensive stability by bringing in Iñigo Martínez in place of Lamine Yamal. The tactical change proved costly as it gave the French outfit to the confidence commit more players forward as they equalized the game six minutes later.

The decision to take Yamal out of the game was a rookie mistake by Xavi Hernandez, as he has been the best attacker so far for the Catalan side. The removal of Yamal in the 34th minute of the match saw the Blaugrana lose their attacking threats by the right side of the pitch with a Pedri on the pitch that could not play more than 60 minutes.

The 16-year-old, however, did not appear happy to be substituted early during Barcelona’s Champions League clash with PSG. The game was arguably one of his biggest games this season, as he started strongly and assisted Raphinha’s goal.

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