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Can anybody stop brilliant Barcelona in the Champions League?

Can anybody stop Luis Enrique's Barcelona in the Champions League this season?

Can anybody stop Luis Enrique’s Barcelona in the Champions League this season?

Barcelona swatted Arsenal away like a slightly troublesome fly in the Champions League last-16 on Wednesday night.

A 2-0 win in the first leg was followed up by a 3-1 win in the second leg. A 5-1 aggregate win showed Barcelona’s superiority over the two legs.

There was even a feeling that Lionel Messi and co were not at their best at the Nou Camp. In fact by Messi’s high standard’s he enjoyed a quiet game. The Argentinian got on the scoresheet as did his strike-partners Neymar and Luis Suarez.

Bettering Pep Guardiola’s side

In terms of sheer goals and statistics this Barcelona side is comparable to Pep Guardiola’s much-lauded Tiki-Taka masters. Luis Enrique’s side have not been given the same praise as Guardiola’s, but they are on their way to bettering that great side.

Guardiola did not have the likes of Suarez or Neymar, but Messi was a key player in the former-Barca stars’ highly-rated team. Barcelona’s current style is just aesthetic, arguably more entertaining than Tiki-Taka.

Hopefully fans and media alike will be talking about this team in the same breathe as Guardiola’s great team in the future. Enrique’s team have now gone a Spanish record of 38 games unbeaten in all competitions.

Threats to Barcelona this season

It is difficult to see anybody stopping brilliant Barcelona this season. Stopping Messi will do no good, Suarez and Neymar will just be allowed more time to create havoc in opposition defences.

Ironically Guardiola and his Bayern Munich team are probably the biggest threat to Barcelona retaining this trophy this season. The Bavarians were the last team to defeat the Catalan giants in the Champions League, last season in the semi-finals of the competition.

In the end though, the 3-2 win at the Allianz Arena meant little, as Barcelona had established a three goal lead in the first leg at the Nou Camp.

Bayern have become one of the most formidable teams in Europe in recent seasons. However, the Bavarians came within seconds of a Champions League exit on Wednesday night against Juventus.

The Bianconeri raced into a surprise two goal lead at the Allianz Arena, but Bayern hit back through a goal from Arjen Robben, before Thomas Muller scored an injury-time goal to take the tie into extra-time.

The German giants won the game 4-2 through goals from Thiago and Kingsley Coman in extra-time to take their place in the last eight of the competition, claiming a 6-4 aggregate win.

Guardiola will be looking to avoid another defeat against his old club in the competition this season and a Champions League win would be a fine way to sign off his tenure as Bayern boss, before moving to Manchester City in the summer.

Barcelona’s other main competitors for the trophy could be arch-rivals Real Madrid, but the Catalan giants have already put Los Blancos to the sword 4-0 at the Bernabeu, and Messi did not even start that game.

Real have not been at their best this season and I doubt many in Spain would fancy their chances against the Catalan giants in their current form.

A slight chink of hope for opposition teams

Barcelona are favourites to win this seasons Champions League at odds of 6/4. There is some good news for opposition teams though, as Barcelona are still slightly vulnerable in defence. Arsenal created a number of chances on the Barcelona goal.

The side from north London failed to take those opportunities and there was always a feeling that the Catalan giants could move up a gear. The bad news is that the opposition have to be able to get the ball off Barcelona, before they can cause the Catalan giants problems in defence.

That is the major problem. Teams spend that much time concentrating on stopping Barcelona, that they do have enough energy or time to take advantage of their slight vulnerabilities in defence.

As the last 38 games in all competitions have proven, Barcelona are simply unstoppable at the moment. It will take a very disciplined, tactically astute and lucky team to send the European champions out of this competition this season.

Can anybody stop brilliant Barcelona in the Champions League?

Thu 17 Mar, 2016
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