It was a Champions League night of positives for Barcelona. The headlines were dominated by Messi, of course, becoming the first man to score in 15 consecutive Champions League seasons and that was indeed worthy of all plaudits. The Spanish champions got the victory and now sit three points clear in a group that was dubbed “the group of death”. While the win against Slavia Prague was far from convincing, it pointed out what has been the Achilles heel for Barcelona in a while and that points to their “poor” away form in the Champions League.
Although Slavia Prague are the whipping boys of Barca’s Champions League group, the Catalans were never going to take the Czech side lightly.
After seeing the way in which they held Inter until the last knockings of their game at the San Siro, and only losing to Dortmund via two breakaway goals, being complacent wasn’t an option.
After two minutes of Wednesday night’s game, Lionel Messi’s strike looked like it would herald a goal fest in Prague but the reality was very much different.
05/06 ✅ 1⚽
06/07 ✅ 1⚽
07/08 ✅ 6⚽
08/09 ✅ 9⚽
09/10 ✅ 8⚽
10/11 ✅ 12⚽
11/12 ✅ 14⚽
12/13 ✅ 8⚽
13/14 ✅ 8⚽
14/15 ✅ 10⚽
15/16 ✅ 6⚽
16/17 ✅ 11⚽
17/18 ✅ 6⚽
18/19 ✅ 12⚽
19/20 ✅ 1⚽
(To be continued…)
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) October 23, 2019
It stretches back to a poor run of away form that has hunted Barcelona for some seasons now.
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly where the problem lies but there’s clearly now a mental issue as far as some players are concerned.
Maybe the away defeats to Roma and Liverpool have affected the team more than we ever believed possible. But it’s clearly evident that the Catalan giants are not their usual oppressive selves away from home and as it’s well up there with the few things that can stop Messi and co. winning yet another Champions League title with their last triumph coming back in 2015.
It’s simply a mystery to explain just how poor this team are when they’re the visiting side. Let’s be clear.
This was as near to the ‘gala XI’ as Barça are likely to get, and yet they had Marc-Andre Ter Stegen to thank on three separate occasions in the first half alone.
Had the German not been in the right place at the right time, Barcelona could’ve been dead and buried before the half time whistle.
Sadly, this poor away form doesn’t apply to the team as a whole only but on an individual level as well, more so to a very influential figure in the squad.
The statistics will say Luis Suarez’ wait for a Champions League away goal goes on, but it was his close-range shot that gave Barcelona the three points in Prague. Technically at least.
From Lionel Messi’s free-kick he turned the winner in from a tight angle but only off the chest of Peter Olayinka who will be credited with own goal.
That leaves him without his name on the score-sheet away in Europe for over 30 hours of football. He was similarly denied last season when his goal at Old Trafford was given to Luke Shaw.
Twice he was presented with first-half chances to bring to an end his 1,498-day away-day European scoring drought, and twice he couldn’t beat the keeper. Yet we know even if Suarez was just returning from an injury with the same match played at Camp Nou, maybe the 32-year-old would have dominated headlines with a stress-free hattrick.
0 – Luis Suarez is goalless in his last 19 away UEFA Champions League matches, attempting 59 shots without success since a goal against Roma in September 2015. Challenge. pic.twitter.com/k04QyaESoS
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) October 23, 2019
Antoine Griezmann falls into that category too, on a night he’d probably rather forget.
Tough decisions will have to be made sooner or later if Barca do want to consider themselves genuine Champions League contenders. As it stands, Barcelona are definitely one of the top contenders to win this year’s Champions League crown bu despite the challenge from other European powerhouses, the Spanish giants could be their own worst enemy if they don’t fix their poor away form soon enough.