Barcelona bow out of Champions League with pride after Juventus draw
Barcelona huffed and puffed but Juventus' house was made of far stronger material than Paris Saint-Germain's shack and never came down, as the hosts could do no better than a 0-0 draw Wednesday that sees the Italian champions move on to the Champions League semifinals.
As much as Luis Enrique and Andres Iniesta tried to create a positive atmosphere before the game with their optimistic news conferences, and the Barca supporters also played their part, the naked self-belief that was truly tangible leading up to the PSG game was rarely visible here.
Barca managed to restore some pride with this solid if futile display after their lifeless performance in Turin, with Lionel Messi, Jordi Alba and Gerard Pique the most willing participants, but it was no use, and now the soul-searching will begin after a second straight quarterfinal elimination from the Champions League.
Barca's fans, with the exception of those who whistled at half-time, did themselves proud, constantly cheering on the team even as the scale of the task in front grew bigger. On the pitch, Alba showed he deserves a place in the team on the biggest nights.
Iniesta's near-anonymous display raises serious questions about how long he has left as a first-team regular. Neymar had a petulant display and Luis Suarez's presence was barely felt.
Manager rating out of 10
6 -- Enrique corrected his fatal mistake of allowing Jeremy Mathieu to set foot in the Juventus Stadium and gave another chance to Alba. There was little else the coach could do, with the exception of perhaps taking Iniesta off for Denis Suarez, but the damage had been done in Turin, and few solutions were likely to work against a Juventus side this solid and with such a great advantage.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Marc-Andre ter Stegen, 6 -- Coped well on the ball with Juve's high pressing and had far less work to do between the posts than in Turin.
DF Sergi Roberto, 5 -- Couldn't cause much damage down the right was and unable to repeat his heroic strike against PSG despite an ambitious shot that fizzed over the bar.
DF Gerard Pique, 7 -- Showed character on the night and will have boosted his confidence after his poor showing in Turin. Provided a crucial block against Juan Cuadrado early in the game to make sure Barca at least went the distance.
DF Samuel Umtiti, 6 -- Gave an assured display alongside Pique, although they were up against a side that knew they had the job half-done.
DF Jordi Alba, 7 -- One of Barca's liveliest performers, he proved Enrique was wrong for leaving him out of the first leg in favour of the lumbering Mathieu. Kept trying to link up with Messi and came close to meeting the Argentine's pinged cross in the first half.
MF Ivan Rakitic, 5 -- Was not outrun in midfield as in the first leg, but could barely find any space to link with the attack or influence the game and was the first player Enrique sacrificed.
MF Sergio Busquets, 6 -- Barca were woefully exposed in Turin without their midfield pivot, but his ordinary display here suggests he might not have made much difference in the first leg even if he had been available.
MF Andres Iniesta, 5 -- This was a night when it became clear that the little midfield artist's days in the most competitive games might be numbered, as his lack of speed proved a real hindrance in trying to find a way through this intense, hardened Juve side.
FW Lionel Messi, 7 -- If Barca were to stand a chance of going through, Messi needed to have a perfect night. He was the player who looked most likely to create sparks, particularly in his promising exchanges with Alba in the first half, but Messi's shooting let him down.
FW Luis Suarez, 5 -- His usual strength and aggression was little match for Juventus' monstrous centre-back pairing, and this time it was Giorgio Chiellini who bared his teeth, along with his towering partner Leonardo Bonucci.
FW Neymar, 5 -- What a contrast to his virtuoso display here against PSG. The Brazilian spent most of the game complaining to referee Bjorn Kuipers and frequently made poor decisions, with his only positive play his linkup with Messi in the first half, which the Argentine squandered. Neymar's booking means he is out of the first group-stage game of next season's competition.
FW Paco Alcacer (for Rakitic), 5 -- Few in the stadium or watching at home would have expected the former Valencia striker to hold the key to breaking down Juve's wall, and he struggled to find any harmony with his teammates as time ran out.
DF Javier Mascherano (for Roberto), NR -- Gave a little more steel to Barca and had a crack at scoring his first goal for the club, but Wednesday was not the night.
Richard Martin covers FC Barcelona for ESPN FC. Twitter: @rich9908.