Barcelona rampage their way into the quarter-final
Lionel Messi and Barcelona made light work of Lyon when it mattered most as they beat the visitors 5-1 on their way to a Champions League quarter-final.
Barcelona 5-1 Lyon: match report
Barcelona qualified for the quarter-final of the Champions League for the 12th year in a row with an impressive, at times explosive, display against a Lyon side who knew they had their work cut out for them. Lionel Messi scored two with Philippe Coutinho, Gerard Piqué and Ousmane Dembele got on the scoresheet too.
Lyon captain, Nabil Fekir, said his side were going to the Camp Nou to perform a miracle and while they managed to pull a goal back in the second half after the home side had scored two, Barcelona always had them at arm's length.
After a scoreless first leg, Barcelona returned home with the possibility of an early away goal complicating things for them. Lionel Messi was in no mood to entertain such thoughts.
The Barca captain tested Anthony Lopes with a strike early on. The keeper turned it around the post but Messi was moving fluidly and with menace around Lyon's penalty area. With Coutinho and Suárez playing their part as decoy, at times, and providing their own danger, Barcelona dominated.
Suarez was tripped after a perfectly weighted pass into his path from Messi. Going nowhere, Denayer slid early and caught the striker with the referee pointing to the spot.
Messi calmly sliced a panenka down the middle as Lopes jumped to his left. With 18 minutes on the clock, Lyon were going to have to score.
After 31 minutes, they'd have to double that if they wanted to continue in the competition.
Coutinho, who looked like the most relieved man in Barcelona after he struck home, was played through after good work by Suarez for the second.
Lyon didn't have a shot on target in that opening 45 and while they looked to play expansive football on the rare occasions they did get the ball at their feet, Barcelona were combining their lethal attack with resolute and convincing defending.
The visiting side, with nothing to lose, did have a go for a 20 minute spell and their pressure yielded a goal. Lucas Tousart chested down to himself and slammed home to make it 2-1 despite a lengthy intervention from VAR to ensure there was no offside or foul in the build-up as Denayer and Lenglet clashed at the back post.
With the Camp Nou on edge, Messi slid into the driving seat and assuaged fears.
He got the ball in the Messi zone just inside the penalty area and on his favoured left-foot. With two defenders in his face, he faked them both back to France and turned onto his right before sliding home. The keeper got a hand to it but it was weak and the ball rolled over the line.
The third showed Messi at his individual best but the fourth was a display of smooth counter-attacking football and a telepathy beyond the norm.
From a Lyon corner, Barcelona broke with Alba finding Messi in the middle of the field. After a probing run into the box, he laid off to Pique, who was on hand to turn it home at the back post.
The fifth had notes of all of the above with a sense of unstoppable rampage. Messi led the troops again into enemy territory with Suarez peeled out to the right and Dembele out to the left. Vidal, with his legs churning like pistons, drove forward to keep Lyon occupied and Rakitic lay in wait, gasping to get involved.
Messi laid it off to Dembele and he slotted home to make it five and put a stamp on an overall authoratitive performance from Valverde's men.
Reports suggest Barcelona are putting all their eggs into the European basket having watched their rivals lift the trophy for the last three years in a row. Real Madrid are out and so too are PSG with Atlético and Bayern waving goodbye to their hopes of glory too. Barcelona are still in with a shout and the closer they get to the finish line, the more focused their approach will be.
Barcelona vs Lyon live online: match updates
Barcelona vs Lyon live online: preview
Barcelona welcome Lyon to the Camp Nou with their eyes on a quarter-final spot. Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid are out and Barcelona could be the last Spanish side left in the competition after tonight. The draw takes place on Friday and they're desperate to be in it after the heartbreak they suffered against Roma last season.
Ernesto Valverde says the defeats to Real Madrid and PSG should serve as a reminder for Barcelona and a warning. Atlético Madrid threw away a 2-0 lead last night against Juventus so this is the round of the upset. Messi and co. will be keen not to fall into the same category though.