Barcelona have been finding it hard of late, in both the La liga and the Champions league and Luis Suarez’s Champions League away-day goal drought is looking pretty poor. It’s either 16 straight away games in Europe not scoring, or 1,510 minutes, or 24 hours, or three years. But there is worse news for Barcelona: Suarez was not the biggest culprit of their failure to put one past Lyon on Tuesday; the club have not won away in a knockout game in Europe for three years; and they have managed just one goal in open play in their last four games in Spain. according to dailymail.
The formidable forward line of Suarez, Lionel Messi, Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho – around £435million worth in terms of what they cost and the Argentine’s current value – has become temporarily, at least, easy to contain. Suarez’s long-term problem is not helping things. He tensed up several times in front of goal on Tuesday night snatching at chances. And the weight of the unwanted record seemed to be weighing heavy judging from the pained expression he wore as he left the field. But the problems go beyond the No 9. Barcelona have scored just once in six away knockout games since they beat Arsenal 2-0 at the Emirates in 2016.
On Tuesday night the front three gave the ball away 50 times between them. Suarez lost possession 15 times, Messi 17 times and Dembele 18 times. The French winger has regressed since his injury and once again looks too hit and miss – with more misses than hits. Only 33 per cent of his dribbles came off and when he was replaced by Coutinho in the second half he could have no arguments. Not that Coutinho could succeed where his team-mates had failed. When the final whistle blew only five of Barcelona’s 25 shots had been on target and their best player had probably been keeper Marc Andre ter Stegen, who pushed one Martin Terrier shot on to the bar to prevent defeat.
The decision to sign Dembele and Coutinho with the Neymar money and not put it all on Kylian Mbappe is still rued by many supporters who see the Ronaldo Nazario clone as someone who could have played alongside Messi and Suarez and eventually replaced Suarez.
Veteran agent Josep Maria Minguella, who has a long relationship with Barcelona stretching back to the signing of Messi, claims he offered the club Mbappe the summer Neymar left. ‘On August 5 I offered Mbappe to Barcelona. They took no notice of me and I think it is an error that will mark the club for the next 10 years,’ he told the television programme ‘La Porteria’.
In the winter window just past, coach Ernesto Valverde insisted on the signing of a new striker to offer Suarez rest. But after a long, scattergun pursuit in which Olivier Giroud, Alvaro Morata, Christhian Stuani, Fernando Llorente and Carlos Vela all became public targets, they signed Kevin Prince Boateng who on Tuesday night failed to even make the bench, watching from the stands as Barcelona fired blanks below.