After an enticing affair at the Camp Nou, Barcelona emerged 3-0 winners against a fighting Liverpool side that probably deserved better. Ernesto Valverde’s men are now left to defend a three-goal lead at Anfield. It’s unlikely that the Catalan giants will let slip such a lead but such an instance presented itself last season.
After securing a 4-1 lead at Camp Nou, Barcelona succumbed to a 3-0 defeat in Rome to have themselves eliminated from the Champions League at the quarter-final stage. This was a result of complacency, fatigue and a false sense of superiority produced by the 4-1 lead.
Two of those were own goals and one of them was a result of a deflection. Although the score-line suggests that Barcelona dominated the game, which simply wasn’t the case. The cracks which were hidden in the first leg were exposed in the second. Similarly, the Spanish giants now have a three-goal advantage despite being second best for most parts of the second half.
Liverpool can draw inspiration from Roma’s come-back but Barcelona are now better equipped to prevent such a debacle. The heart-break at Rome served as a wake-up call and Valverde has done well to learn from his mistakes.
The Basque coach has rotated his squad very well at the business end of the season, something he failed to do last season. Barcelona ace Lionel Messi has been allowed enough rest and preserved very well for the most important phase of the season.
With the league title already in the bag, the Catalans have the liberty to rotate heavily for the league fixtures and have fresh legs for the second leg. Valverde has made the best use of this liberty in both the games leading to the second leg against Manchester United and Liverpool.
Also, Barcelona are mentally toughened to prevent a collapse in the second leg. Even though a year has passed, the defeat in Rome is fresh on the minds of the players and hence complacency is completely out of the question.
It’s fair to say that the coach and players are now better equipped to prevent a collapse, with the defeat in Rome serving as a wake-up call.