Barcelona's Champions League Odyssey Is Surely Over After Juventus Hiding

Juventus rocked Barcelona 3-0 in the first leg of their Champions League quarterfinal behind a Paolo Dybala brace.

Barcelona will return to the Camp Nou for their quarterfinal second leg with less to do than in the round of 16, but that truth only goes as far as the paper it’s printed on. This Juventus side are a completely different animal than the PSG one Barcelona managed to overcome.

In defense, 39-year-old goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon made two sensational saves, Dani Alves knew exactly how to disrupt Neymar’s play and the central pairing of Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini, with Andrea Barzagli coming on late to secure the victory, is simply too good to fold like their Parisian counterparts.

For Barcelona, the suspension of Sergio Busquets for this leg created a vacuum, both defensively and going forward, that gave Barca an uncharacteristically disjointed approach.

After spending all week defending Andre Gomes, Luis Enrique started with him on the bench and pushed Javier Mascherano into the defensive midfield role. Jeremy Mathieu started in defense alongside Samuel Umtiti and Gerard Pique. This was an unmitigated disaster.

With just seven minutes gone, Juan Cuadrado received the ball on the right-hand side and drove at Mathieu, who backed off like Cuadrado had the flu, before feeding it to Paolo Dybala in the area.

Mascherano was nowhere near tight enough to Dybala, and the Argentine turned and sent a snap shot just inside the far post.

In the 21st minute, a beautiful ball from Lionel Messi through a forest of Juventus legs found Andres Iniesta bearing down on goal. He shaped to curl his effort towards the far post, but Buffon smartly saved and the match immediately took another turn.

Mario Mandzukic attacked down the left flank before pulling the ball back to Dybala, who was somehow completely unmarked as he drifted across the area. Mascherano could be seen trying to get back, but Dybala instantly whipped a curling effort inside the upright. In only 22 minutes, Juventus had given themselves a two-goal advantage.

Nothing looked right for Barcelona. The midfield diamond of Mascherano, Iniesta, Ivan Rakitic and Sergi Roberto wasn’t able to connect with the front three, and Sami Khedira and Miralem Pjanic expertly shielded their back four from any meaningful advances.

The trouble that Mandzukic and Cuadrado were providing Barcelona’s wide areas must've also been disconcerting for Enrique. The Barcelona manager took off Mathieu and sent on fan favorite Gomes, but Juventus scored their third only ten minutes after the restart.

Chiellini outmuscled Mascherano on a corner, and the Italian defender planted a downward header into the net. It was not a night to remember for Mascherano, but it never was going to be when his assignment was to keep tight with Dybala and mark Chiellini on corners.

Barcelona went in search of a vital away goal, and it almost arrived in the 67th when Messi slipped in Suarez, who’d managed to get the better of Bonnuci. However, Buffon somehow managed to get a finger to his shot and tip it onto the post.

Juventus would hold on for a 3-0 victory, and it could’ve been more if Gonzalo Higuain would’ve managed to convert one of his opportunities.

The second leg is on Wednesday, April 19 in Barcelona. 

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