17.03.2017 13:40 - in: UCL S

      Opposition watch: Barcelona

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      The Champions League’s meanest defence meets its most prolific attack...everything you need to know about quarter-final opponents Barcelona
      The basics

      Founded in 1899, Barcelona have won 24 La Liga championships, 28 Copa del Rey titles, 12 Spanish Super Cups, five Champions League trophies, four Cup Winners’ Cups and five European Super Cups.

      Together with Athletic Bilbao and El Clasico rivals Real Madrid, the Blaugrana, whose customary shirt colour is red and blue, have never been relegated from Spain’s top flight in their illustrious history. 

      Barcelona defeated Juventus in the UCL final of 14/15

      Four of their UCL successes have come in the past 12 years, a period in which they have reached a total of eight semi-finals.

      Past encounters

      Friday’s quarter-final draw in Nyon pits these two European giants together for the tenth time in Champions League history, the second in just three seasons after both clubs went all the way to the Berlin final in 2015.

      The last meeting between the pair in a two-legged knockout tie came at the same stage of the competition in 2002/03, an encounter rendered unforgettable for Bianconeri fans by Marcelo Zalayeta’s 114th-minute winner at the Camp Nou.

      During the first leg at the Stadio delle Alpi, Paolo Montero had put Marcello Lippi's charges a goal to the good before Javier Saviola’s strike ensured it was advantage Barcelona for the return match a week later.

      Determined to cancel out the away goal, Juventus went in front on 53 minutes through Pavel Nedved, only for Xavi to equalise and force extra-time.

      With penalties looming, Zalayeta stooped to head in Alessandro Birindelli’s cross with 114 minutes on the clock, send the travelling supporters wild and the Bianconeri into the semi-finals where they would go on to eliminate Real Madrid in similarly spectacular fashion.


      The scene in Spain

      Turning attentions to domestic business, Barcelona’s has been a campaign marked by inconsistency.

      A 2-1 defeat to Deportivo La Coruna last weekend delivered a potentially critical blow to the Catalans’ chances of retaining the La Liga trophy, as they now sit two points adrift of leaders Real Madrid having played one more game.

      Thanks to the attacking exploits of Messi (23) and Luis Suarez (21), the next European visitors to Juventus Stadium have thus far comfortably outscored the competition in the league (77) while only Villarreal (19 conceded) can better them defensively (23).  

      Between now and 11 April, three of Barca’s next four domestic fixtures will be played away from home against Valencia (19 March), Granada (2 April) and Malaga (8 April) with third-placed Sevilla visiting the Camp Nou in the middle on 5 April.


      The journey so far

      After netting 20 goals in the group stages - scoring more than four on three different occasions, including a 7-0 thrashing of Celtic at the Camp Nou - Barcelona were widely expected to carry their devastating European form into the first knockout round where they were drawn with Paris Saint-Germain.

      A resounding 4-0 first-leg defeat in the French capital however had made an early Barca exit a statistical certainty with nothing but a history-making comeback capable of preventing them from failing to reach at least the quarter-finals for the first time since 2007.

      What followed defied description and belief as three last-minute goals, two of which scored in added time, overturned a seemingly insurmountable 5-3 aggregate deficit to set up one of the most remarkable comebacks in the history of sport.

      Sergi Roberto’s epic winner on 95 minutes was Barca’s 26th goal of the tournament so far - more than any other side – while Lionel Messi tops the scoring the charts with 11, the last of which put Luis Enrique’s men 3-0 up on the night against PSG.


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