Soccer

Barcelona on the brink of Champions League elimination

El delantero argentino del Barcelona Lionel Messi pidió el miércoles, en su condición de embajador de UNICEF, el fin de la guerra en Siria, un conflicto que se ha cobrado ya la vida de 16.000 niños.
El delantero argentino del Barcelona Lionel Messi pidió el miércoles, en su condición de embajador de UNICEF, el fin de la guerra en Siria, un conflicto que se ha cobrado ya la vida de 16.000 niños. AP

The unthinkable could very well happen. Barcelona is in danger of being bounced from the Champions League in the Round of 16 for the first time in the past decade.

It is hard to believe that a Barca team with the All-Star front line of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez was thrashed 4-0 by Paris St. Germain in the first leg of the Round of 16, but that is exactly what happened. And now the Spanish giant must hope for a miracle on March 7.

The last time Barcelona failed to reach a Champions League quarterfinal was 2007.

PSG dominated every aspect of the match. They had 10 shots on goal compared with one for Barcelona. The French club’s midfielders, Marco Verratti, Adrien Rabiot and Blaise Matuidi, controlled the center of the field and dictated the game’s tempo.

Unai Emery, the PSG coach, received high praise, while Barca coach Luis Enrique was heavily criticized by the media and fans. Although Barca trails La Liga leader Real Madrid by just four points in the league standings, there is a growing sentiment that the team is underperforming.

Is the Barcelona era over? Former AC Milan coach Arrigo Sacchi thinks so.

“For some time, Barcelona have not been the old Barcelona,” he told Sport. “Even in La Liga they beat the weak clubs with ease but struggle with stronger sides. You no longer see that aggressive, organized and hungry team we so admired.

“They dominated for 10 years, imposing a style of play that was at times truly marvelous. They gave a football lesson to the whole world. But now they’ve hit a brick wall and even Leo Messi can’t skip past his rivals anymore because the whole machinery of the team is broken down.”

Meanwhile, Arsenal fans are not happy either after a 5-1 Champions League loss to German club Bayern Munich. Bayern got goals from Arjen Robben, Robert Lewandowski, Alcantara Thiago (2) and Thomas Muller. The team scored three goals in a 10-minute flurry early in the second half.

Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger said his team “mentally collapsed.”

It is the sixth year in a row the Gunners lost their Round of 16 first leg, and barring an unlikely Arsenal rout in the next match it seems Arsenal won’t be in the quarterfinals for the seventh year in a row.

THIS AND THAT

▪ Praise for Plantation’s Lewis: U.S. Under-20 national coach Tab Ramos heaped praise on Plantation native Jonathan Lewis, a 19-year-old speedy midfielder/forward who is on the U.S. roster for the CONCACAF championships this week in Costa Rica.

Lewis was recently selected third in the Major League Soccer Draft by New York City FC. He played youth soccer for the Plantation Eagles and Kendall SC, and attended South Plantation High before heading to the University of Akron.

“We selected Jonathan because he has some important qualities that other players don’t have,” Ramos said on a conference call. “He has excellent timing on his runs, he has amazing speed, so he can break a game open any time. He has a very easy time of getting to goal and creating opportunities, in particular when the game is wide open.

“In terms of what he can do to get better, in the end these are all 19- and 20-year-old kids, some of them are 18, so they all have a lot to learn. They’re at the beginning of their careers, they’re at the beginning of seeing what the international level is about and how difficult it can be, and Jonathan Lewis falls along in the same category as most of the other players.

“This is a great experience for him, and I’m sure after this tournament is over he’ll be in a much better place than when it started.”

▪ Cvitanich to Banfield: Argentine forward Dario Cvitanich, who scored nine goals in 27 matches for Miami FC last season, left the team and went back to Argentina. He re-joined Banfield, the club where he got his start in 2003. Cvitanich, 32, signed an 18-month contract.

Who’s leading

EPL: Chelsea (60), Manchester City (52), Arsenal and Tottenham (50), Liverpool (49).

La Liga: Real Madrid (52), Sevilla (49), Barcelona (48), Atletico Madrid (45), Real Sociedad (41).

Bundesliga: Bayern Munich (50), Leipzig (42), Dortmund and Hoffenheim (37), Eintracht (35).

Serie A: Juventus (63), Roma (53), Napoli (51), Atalanta (48), Lazio (47).

Ligue 1: Monaco (59), Nice (56), PSG (55), Lyon (40).

On TV

Sunday: Fulham vs. Tottenham (9 a.m., FS1), Blackburn vs. Manchester United (11 a.m., FS1), Pumas UNAM vs. Tijuana (1 p.m., Univision), Barcelona vs. Leganes (2:35 p.m., BEIN).

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