WHILE FC Barcelona has regained its bearings as La Liga title contenders, much remains to be seen as to how it will perform in Europe’s biggest club football competition.
The humiliation Barca suffered at the hands of eventual 2020 Champions League winners, Bayern Munich, during the single-leg quarterfinals must have been utterly traumatic.
Let’s refresh your memory. On the night of Aug. 14, 2020 at the Estadio da Luz in Lisbon, Portugal, the German champions blasted eight goals against the Blaugrana, which could only respond with two goals.
The momentum of this great victory propelled Bayern to a 3-0 win over Lyon in the semifinals, and then a hard-fought 1-0 championship victory over Paris Saint-Germain.
But even days, even weeks, after Bayern lifted the Champions League trophy, people cannot help but talk about the 8-2 thrashing the Germans handed the Catalans.
For a moment there, Bayern seemed invincible, and Barca, a spent force.
And yet like all great teams, Barca, now under new manager Ronald Koeman, has quietly regrouped and seems to be getting its act together.
The question in everyone’s mind, though, is this: is FC Barcelona still European championship material?
All eyes will be on Barca when it faces 2020 Champions League runners-up PSG as the Round of 16 kicks off tomorrow, Feb. 17.
The match was anticipated as a Messi and Neymar reunion, but the PSG forward suffered a groin injury in a cup match days earlier and has been ruled out for tomorrow’s first-leg encounter at the Nou Camp.
This is a huge blow for new manager Mauricio Pochettino’s PSG as Neymar is the club’s top scorer in the Champions League this season.
And yet even with Neymar out of the equation, PSG remains deadly with Kylian Mbappe, Moise Kean and Mauro Icardi leading the French assault.
Well, Barcelona still has a revitalized Messi, and if Antoine Griezman, Martin Braithwaite and Ousmane Dembele cooperate, the Blaugrana still has a decent chance against PSG.
That is, of course, if the ghosts of last season’s champions league nightmare doesn’t haunt Barca tomorrow.