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What can Barcelona learn from their 4-1 loss to PSG and produce yet another classic comeback?

BARCELONA, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 16: The final result is shown at the scoreboard at the end of the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 match between FC Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain at Camp Nou on February 16, 2021 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Barcelona were taught a footballing lesson in a 4-1 defeat against PSG in their first-leg round-of-16 clash. The Catalan side went in front after just 27 minutes when Frenkie de Jong was brought down inside the box. Lionel Messi dispatched an unstoppable penalty to hand the La Liga side the lead.

But it was all mayhem after that for the home side. Kylian Mbappe scored a hat-trick and Moise Kean got one to hand the Parisians an invaluable 3-goal lead going into the second leg. Moreover, they now have 4 away goals, which means Barcelona have to score at least 4 goals in the second leg to have any chance of a comeback.

Analysing the crucial moments – What did Barcelona do wrong defensively?

Getting right into the moments that cost the game, Barcelona were outplayed by an overload from PSG in the midfield. As visible in the image below, three players in white are occupying the Barcelona backline in the middle of the field, thus sucking in their defenders, including right-back Sergino Dest.

PSG players in white kits occupying Barcelona backline in the middle. (Image Credits: UEFA.tv)
PSG players in white kits occupying Barcelona backline in the middle. (Image Credits: UEFA.tv)

For PSG’s first goal, Kurzawa is then found on the empty left flank, who finds Verratti in a little bit of space on the edge of the box. The Italian finds Mbappe with a dink, which was missed by Gerard Pique. Clement Lenglet is then clearly beaten by Mbappe as he proceeds to score.

In the image below, it’s clear that Verratti is not marked properly by a Barcelona midfielder. This means Gerard Pique (red) is in two minds about getting close to Verratti. This also leaves Mbappe in space through the middle.

For the second goal, in the 65th minute, Barcelona’s defenders press Moise Kean but not as a unit. This allows PSG right-back Alessandro Florenzi (far-right in the picture below) acres of space. And once you get in that area, a goal is not too far off.

The third goal was a set-piece header from Kean. It wasn’t the best piece of defending by Barcelona and they could have done better to get a head to that. Nevertheless, it was one where the PSG forward just wanted it more.

However, the 4th goal was suicide. Mbappe delivered the killer blow in the 85th minute, courtesy of a fast counter-attack. But what was worrying here was the number of players pushing forward and unwilling to match PSG’s attacking pace to fall back.

Barcelona players are too far up the pitch and get caught on the counter.
Not enough players from Barcelona ran back and as a result, Mbappe (far left) was clear on goal.

What should be done?

Barcelona started in a 4-3-3 formation with a midfield three of Sergio Busquets, De Jong and Pedri. The duo of De Jong and Pedri, who played alongside defensive midfielder Busquets, were outmatched by Leonardo Paredes and Marco Verratti.

The PSG pairing had more touches on the ball (as seen in the image below), which meant more opportunities for the midfielders to find a pass for the forwards. Hence, Barcelona should try and stay tighter to the PSG midfielders.


Touches in match by Pedri and de Jong (left) as compared to Paredes and Verratti (right). (WhoScored)

Barcelona should also mark PSG’s wingers, especially Mbappe. They should also be wary of balls played out to the wings. The Catalans should try to contain Kurzawa and Florenzi when they bomb forward. Moreover, Barcelona were very poor aerially as compared to PSG as they won just two aerial duels compared to their opponents’ 12.

To add to that, PSG completed 3 times more dribbles than Barcelona (seen in the image below), which clearly means the defending was not the best when it came to stopping PSG from making direct runs at the Barcelona goal.

Stats clearly show PSG (blue) domination over Barcelona. (WhoScored)

The Catalan giants do not need a lot of advice on how to score when they have someone like Messi in their team. But he was not getting touches inside the box as much as he would have liked. Messi getting more shots on target would be of great help.

Shots by Mbappe (blue) and Messi (red) in the match. (WhoScored)

Barca’s first goal came as a result of a ball over the top of PSG’s defence and a run into the box by De Jong to draw a penalty. Hence, balls in behind PSG’s backline and runners from midfield would definitely give them a better chance to score once again.

De Jong (red) making a run into the box from midfield and creating havoc after potentially getting on the end of a long ball attempted for him over the top of PSG’s defence.

Moreover, they will have to believe in themselves. Barcelona have previously come back from a massive deficit against PSG to turn the game around in the second leg. Although they don’t have Neymar and Luis Suarez from that famous match, they must still believe in themselves.

All match screenshots and highlights are taken from the official highlight package of the match from the UEFA website (login required).

Written by Aniket Rai

An ordinary football fan, doing what he loves.

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