Roma 3-0 Barcelona: Champions League inquest begins at Barça
Following Tuesday's shock Champions League exit, Barcelona's players were quick to admit that they only have themselves to blame.
There are defeats, and there are defeats. It's clear that the reverse suffered by Barcelona at the Stadio Olimpico on Tuesday will take a while for them to come to terms with. Indeed, the Champions League quarter-final exit has been defined by the players themselves as a "debacle". Not so much because Barça are out of Europe - after all, they have failed to progress beyond the last eight for the past three years - but because of the manner in which they went down. "We lost like a little team," was among the chief dressing-room verdicts that could be heard in Rome.
Roma were better than us, is Barcelona players' stark verdict
Straight after the final whistle, the inquest into what had gone wrong got underway within the Barça squad. The group's senior figures were the first to admit that the team had totally failed to rise to their task. What's more, there was an acceptance that their handsome, 4-1 first-leg win had been "a bit misleading". Even still, no-one had expected to lose 3-0 in the return. "Let's face facts: Roma deserved to go through because they played better than us," was one of the dominant messages in the LaLiga leaders' dressing room.
It was an acknowledgement of the merits of a home side who showed greater belief and, put simply, offered more out on the pitch. "There were times when we didn't recognise ourselves out there," some conceded. There was an awareness among Ernesto Valverde's men that they had stopped doing many of the things that have established them as a leading force in the global game. "It's the little details that knock you out of Europe," admitted others, who also were in no mood to let slide the "lenience" of the referee, Clément Turpin, who, it was felt, allowed the Roma players' intensity to spill over into outright aggressive tactics.
No excuses for Champions League debacle, squad knows
However, Barça were by no means looking to make excuses. From the outset, 'mea culpa' was the watchword, with the players even publicly apologising to the club's fans, and conceding that the team failed to deliver the goods either individually or collectively. Head coach Ernesto Valverde was also quick to accept his share of the blame for the Catalans' monumental capitulation.
After having Wednesday off, the players will come back together for what will be the moment for deeper reflection. 11 points clear in LaLiga and through to this month's Copa del Rey final, Barcelona are still well placed to win two trophies this season. But there is no escaping that Valverde's ship hit an enormous iceberg on Tuesday night and, right now, is peppered with leaks. His mission is to bail out water, plug those holes, and steer his vessel back on course. Starting Thursday.