Barca tired? Not on this evidence

February 14, 2012

Men tuning in for lots of action in Tuesday’s Champions League last 16 first leg ties would have rued the decision to stay in front of the TV on Valentines’ Night when Barcelona v Bayer Leverkusen and Olympique Lyon against APOEL Nicosia reached the 40-minute mark.

Both were 0-0. APOEL had not registered a shot on goal. Barcelona had dominated their German opposition with 78 per cent of possession, yet no opening score.

There have been reports of a tired Barcelona recently, justifiably. The La Liga and Champions League holders have slipped to 10 points behind arch rivals Real Madrid, who are about the strongest outfit left in Europe’s premier competition on current form.

Perhaps this woke Barcelona up as Alexis Sanchez netted a 41st-minute opener.  Coach Pep Guardiola said afterwards: “I think for the spectators the second half was more fun to watch than the first.”

Barcelona scored two more goals, Lionel Messi came alive, and the Catalans conceded just one in a hugely improved second-half display, that led Leverkusen defender Vedran Corluka to say the tie was over. Few would argue with him.

More in the balance is Lyon’s tie with unheralded APOEL, who will head back to Cyprus with just a one-goal deficit. Can the Nicosia side make more history and reach the quarters?

In action on Wednesday will be Arsenal’s record goalscorer Thierry Henry when the London-club travel to the San Siro for their AC Milan clash, while Zenit St Petersburg host Benfica. Valentine’s Day will be over so let’s hope for romance on the pitch in the first halves.

Picture: Alexis Sanchez of Barcelona celebrates a goal against Bayer Leverkusen during their Champions League round of 16 soccer match in Leverkusen, February 14, 2012. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

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