While they might have had to come from behind on Thursday evening, Barcelona booked their spot in the quarter-finals of this year’s Europa League with a 2-1 victory away at Galatasaray.
Tipped as a real landslide pick when making the trip out to Turkey for their second-leg meeting, Xavi’s side managed to mount an eye-catching second-half display at the Nef Stadium.
Watching new attacking talisman Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang bag what turned out to be a crucial winner on foreign soil, we have taken a look at the main talking points as the Spanish heavyweights put their name in the hat for Friday’s draw.
Barca avoid a real banana skin
Having to settle for a 0-0 stalemate when they welcomed Galatasaray to the Nou Camp last week, Head Coach Xavi had made it clear prior to Thursday’s meeting that he was calling on his side to find a more ruthless display here.
Despite seeing Brazilian defender Marcao hand the hosts a shock lead just before the half-hour mark, the Spanish giants didn’t show any signs of a struggle as they managed to fire back almost immediately.
Heading into the half-time break with the scoreline at 1-1 following Pedri’s brilliant driven strike just nine minutes after Galatasaray’s opener, it is hard to argue that Barca didn’t deserve to extend on their Europa League adventure over both legs.
Met by a hugely tense atmosphere at the Nef Stadium and even having bottles and plastic cups thrown at them from the stands, Xavi’s side put in the type of second-half display you would expect from a such an experienced squad.
With their new attacking talisman eventually securing Barca’s spot in the quarter-finals just moments after the interval, Thursday’s guests have found a much-needed March purple patch.
Dominating large spells on foreign soil, there is no doubt that Xavi’s side will be desperate to keep up their momentum when they face off against Real Madrid in the El Classico on Sunday.
Gala fall short on their big night
Managing to shock many across Europe seven days ago as they picked up a first-leg 0-0 stalemate at the Nou Camp, some in Galatasaray’s camp were smelling the chance to complete a real upset here.
However, despite being backed by a vocal home support at the Nef Stadium, Head Coach Domènec Torrent saw his side largely fail to build off of what was an impressive opener just before the half-hour mark.
Watching Brazilian defender Marcao send the home crowd into overdrive as he powered home his diving header home from Alexandru Cicâldău’s corner, Gala were handed a perfect platform to build off of.
Nevertheless, crashing back down to earth as Pedri leveled the score just nine minutes later, the one-time Barcelona coach failed to see his side gain any real foothold in proceedings after returning from the half-time break.
Almost sat in Süper Lig after what has been a hugely disappointing campaign for the Turkish heavyweights, Thursday’s hosts failed to record a single shot on target throughout the second-half.
On an evening that could have been written in Europa League history, defeat here means that Torrent’s side have now managed to win just a trio of their previous 14 matchups across all formats, a run that stems back to Christmas Day.
Who can stop Aubameyang?
Ending his tenure with Premier League giants Arsenal back in January after what was a messy divorce, it is fair to say that many wondered how Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang would adjust to life in Catalonia.
However, making the move to Spain alongside the likes of Ferran Torres and Adama Traore, the Gabon ace has really hit the ground running and has made an immediate impression since his arrival on Deadline Day.
Booking Barcelona’s spot in the quarter-finals of this year’s Europa League just three minutes after the half-time break after poking the ball across the line from inside the six-yard box, Aubameyang has played a vital role in his new side’s recent resurge.
Once again getting on the scoresheet as Xavi’s side breezed their way to a 4-0 romp against Osasuna on domestic cuties last weekend, the ex-Arsenal striker has now recorded seven goals in as many games.
Causing Galatasaray’s defence a host of issues on Thursday evening, the 32-year-old certainly appears to have been an incredibly smart piece of business from the Barcelona hierarchy.
Knowing that Europa League success this season is also another route for them to secure a Champions League return, could Aubameyang spearhead Xavi’s men to a piece of silverware this year?
Galatasaray: Peña Sotorres, Boey, Nelsson, Marcao, Van Aanholt, Antalyali, Kutlu, Babel, Cicâldau, Aktürkoglu, Gomis
Subs: Ahmed Abdallah, Morutan, Dervisoglu, Bayram
Barcelona: Ter Stegen, Dest, Garcia, Pique, Alba, De Jong, Busquets, Pedri, Torres, Traore, Aubameyang
Subs: Lenglet, Paez Gaviria, Araújo, Depay, Dembele
Goals: Galatasaray: Marcao 28′ – Barcelona: Pedri 37′, Aubameyang 49′
Yellow Cards: Galatasaray: Van Aanholt, Bayram, Marcao – Barcelona: Garcia, Alba, Busquets, Paez Gaviria
Red Cards: N/A
Referee: Daniele Orsato
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