BARCELONA

Barcelona tend to struggle against big teams

Koeman's side have been unable to overcome their direct rivals in LaLiga this season - the victory over Juventus in Turin was their only victory major win.

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Ronald Koeman's Barça continue to live on a knife edge. Since the season started, they have been alternating between convincing displays and last-gasp wins. Not only has the team been inconsistent, but they have struggled to impose their authority on games - particularly against the kind of teams who are capable of punishing rivals in an instant. Curiously, Barça are now victims of a weapon which they used to use with frequency themselves against their opponents. In recent weeks, results hinge on how inspired the players feel in any given moment.

It is because Barcelona have not been able to dominate games that they have struggled against bigger teams, including their direct rivals in LaLiga. The most recent example of that was in last night's Copa del Rey semi-final against Sevilla at the Sánchez Pizjuán, which they lost by two goals and now much turn the tie around in the return leg. At many points in the game, the blaugranas dominated play, but were punished by a team who were more efficient.

Sevilla have met Barça twice this season and on both occasions emerged unscathed. In LaLiga, they held Koeman's team to a 1-1 draw at Camp Nou and beat them 2-0 at the Pizjuán yesterday. In both of those games, Barça let themselves down with mistakes at both ends of the pitch.

The same happened to Koeman's side when they met Atlético Madrid - a close game which they ended up losing 1-0 all because of a monumental mix-up between Piqué and Ter Stegen which Carrasco took advantage of.

When Real Madrid were guests at Camp Nou, it was a similar story. An evenly-fought game which Barcelona didn't manage to take control of - and that enabled Zidane's team, who were far more solid on the ball, to have an edge. A catalogue of mistakes and an inability to dominate both in defence and in attack was behind the team's cruel defeat to Athletic Club in the Spanish Super Cup final.

The sole exception this season was the Champions League meeting with Juventus in Turin, a nerve-racking game which Barcelona suffered to win - doing so against a Juve side who were without Cristiano Ronaldo and who had had three goals disallowed. The Portuguese ace was back for the return at Camp Nou and the Italians took Barça apart and cruised to a 0-3 win.

The team is in a precarious situation, the players know it and their rivals are capitalising on that. It is as though you cannot really ask much more of a team which is doing its best to compete, but against rivals who are a match for them and pounce on the slightest mistake.

Another exam awaits and Barcelona cannot afford any more setbacks. On Tuesday, Paris Saint-Germain visit Camp Nou in the Champions League, as competitions go, there are fewer as ruthless. And at the moment, Barça are showing flashes of ability, but no consistency.