FC Barcelona finally returns to the quarter-finals

FC Barcelona won 3-1 in front of its home crowd on Tuesday in the second leg of the Champions League round of 16 against Naples. The Catalans qualify for the quarter-finals for the first time since 2020.

Published on: 03/12/2024 – 11:19 p.m. Modified on: 03/12/2024 – 11:17 p.m.

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Fortunately, there is the Masia! Once again supported by the young talents of its training center, FC Barcelona qualified on Tuesday March 12 for the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the first time since 2020 by beating Naples (3-1).

A primordial success both on a sporting and economic level for the five-time European champion, left behind in the race for the La Liga title (3rd, 8 points behind Real Madrid, 1st) and who was counting on this meeting to relaunch his season .

Because in addition to offering Catalan supporters the opportunity to continue dreaming at European level, this ticket for the quarters also guarantees Barça a few million additional euros to replenish coffers still in the red.

Decimated by injuries, with the absences of Gavi, Pedri, De Jong, Balde and Ferran Torres, Barça was still able to count on three of its nuggets trained at the club: Pau Cubarsi, 17 years old, Fermin Lopez, 20 years old and Lamine Yamal , 16 years old.

Fermin Lopez and Lamine Yamal decisive

The first, central defender, was imperial alongside Araujo by muzzling the Nigerian center forward Victor Osimhen, scorer in the first leg and systematically put offside or stopped by the young Spaniard. The second, established in the middle, set the tone for his team with crazy activity and initiatives that were rewarded from the 15th minute of play.

Barcelona’s Spanish winger Lamine Yamal (left) battles with Napoli’s Portuguese defender Mario Rui during the Champions League round of 16 second leg at the Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys in Barcelona on March 12, 2024 © Josep LAGO / AFP

The Spanish international hopefuls, who made a name for himself by scoring against Shakhtar Donetsk in the group stage, showed composure to open the scoring with a flat right-footed cross from Raphinha. He was imitated only two minutes later by the Portuguese full-back Joao Cancelo (17th, 2-0), after a counter perfectly carried out by his friend Lamine Yamal, untenable on his right wing.

Two goals in quick succession which exploded the Montjuic Olympic stadium, the temporary enclosure of the Barcelonans during the modernization work at the Camp Nou, which for a few moments became the “pressure cooker” that Xavi was calling for.

Barcelona’s Spanish coach Xavi during the Champions League round of 16 second leg at the Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys in Barcelona on March 12, 2024 © LLUIS GENE / AFP

But the euphoria only lasted a few minutes, before Barça fell back into their ways and gave the Neapolitans the chance to revive, Kosovar defender Rrahmani finding himself alone in the area to adjust Ter Stegen (30th).

The German goalkeeper, fortunately vigilant on his line, then flew to deflect Politano’s header over his bar and keep the advantage before half-time (35th).

And as the Blaugranas like to scare themselves, they trembled throughout the second period while they had the match in hand, and came close to the correction in the 80th on a header from the incoming Lindstrom, which grazed the target .

Until the arrival of Sergi Roberto, unexpected hero of the comeback against PSG in 2017, and came off the bench to offer the third goal to Lewandowski after a nice one-two with Gündogan (83rd, 3-1).

Barcelona will now be able to measure itself against the European elite to find out if this qualification is synonymous with a return to the table of the greats of Europe, or simply a formality given the difficulties of its opponent, unrecognizable 7th in Serie A. This success also allows for the Blaugrana club to remain in the race for qualification for the new Club World Cup formula, which will come into force next year.

With AFP


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