Barcelona left the best for last and finally got the fans in Camp Nou on their feet, waving their flags and cheering their side on. They were displaying their gratitude for the effort being put in – if not the accuracy – and reliving those wonderful few moments against PSG, which will remain in the collective Culé consciousness as the hallmark of their 2016-17 Champions League campaign. But the hard truth is that Barça are out. They didn’t even come close to another famous comeback. They pushed, but they didn’t force Gianluigi Buffon into a save worthy of the name other than when Javier Mascherano almost got on the end of a cross. Otherwise, it was a peaceful evening for the legendary keeper.
Barcelona have three exceptional forwards but against Juventus they did not perform as was hoped. To overturn a 3-0 deficit against the Serie A champions would have required brilliant individual performances from at least two of the MSN, or even all three. But it wasn’t to be. None of them had any impact on the game. Juventus are a solid side, they shut up shop expertly, but a lot more could have been expected of Barça’s front three, especially Leo Messi. But to my eye they appeared (particularly in Suárez and Neymar’s case) to be more concerned about pressurizing the referee than displaying their skill with the ball. The game slipped through their fingers among attempts, protests and frustrated attacks. It was the failure of a fantastic front line.
The comparison is inevitable: Real Madrid scored six goals against Bayern Munich over two legs and the best player on the German side on both occasions was keeper Manuel Neuer. I know that people will point out that two of Cristiano Ronaldo’s goals were offside and I can reply that the two penalties awarded against Madrid were questionable to say the least. Many will enjoy the debate over the games and that’s fine. But above and beyond the refereeing decisions are those saves by Neuer and Ronaldo’s cogency, the Portuguese kicking the door of his tie down while Messi tapped softly on the frame in his. So Barcelona are out, Madrid and Atlético are through and all eyes are now on a Clásico that could decide the Liga title.