The image of a frustrated Lionel Messi with his hands on his hips
in Barcelona's 0-0 Champions League draw in Lyon on Tuesday may
reverberate the most around the world, but it is Luis Suarez's
form in front of goal that is causing most concern in Catalonia.
Suarez laboured throughout much of the Champions League last 16,
first leg in France, although he came as close as anyone to
scoring for Barcelona when he fired just wide from a Jordi Alba
cutback 20 minutes from time.
Barca's recent struggles away from home at the business end of
the Champions League go on -- it is now six matches without an
away win in the knockout rounds, with just one goal scored in
that time, since beating Arsenal 2-0 three years ago.
Suarez, meanwhile, has now gone 16 away matches without scoring
in the competition since a draw at Roma in the group stage in
2015. That adds up to more than 24 hours in total.
"I'd be worried if he were not creating chances, but he has
always had chances, he creates them for his teammates, and he is
a constant headache for opponents," said coach Ernesto Valverde
in defence of the 32-year-old.
Suarez has 16 goals in all competitions this season, but only one
in his team's last eight matches.
"Maybe he is saving them for the games to come," added Valverde.
The performance has added to the worries back in Catalonia, with
Barcelona "unable to translate their overwhelming dominance into
a goal", as the daily Sport put it on Wednesday.
They had 24 attempts at goal, but just five were on target.
"Nobody had the punch, precision, sharpness or clarity to kill
the game," said El Pais, with Barcelona "victims of a negative
run, all blinded, including the infallible Messi. It's a
- Fatigue -
It is not just their away form in Europe that is an issue --
Valverde's team have now won just one of their last five matches,
drawing the other four.
They have scored just once in their last three outings, and that
was a Messi penalty against Valladolid last weekend.
While drawing against a Lyon side deprived of their World
Cup-winning captain Nabil Fekir due to suspension could be seen
as a missed opportunity, the result also needs to be put into
Lyon had already taken four points from Manchester City in the
group stage and recently beat Paris Saint-Germain in Ligue 1.
They have not lost in Europe this season.
Barcelona should still finish the job in the return at the Camp
Nou on March 13. After all, of their last 29 home matches in the
competition, they have won 26 and drawn three, losing none.
Messi -- who made his 130th Champions League appearance on
Tuesday, equalling Andres Iniesta's tally of games in the
competition -- has not been at his majestic best in the last
couple of weeks, but he has scored 30 goals this season.
- Ageing side -
It would be wrong to question him, but fatigue has to be a worry
for the Argentine and his team.
Tuesday's game was Barca's 13th in 2019 in all competitions, and
this is an ageing side.
While a young Lyon team featured nine players aged between 20 and
25, Barcelona fielded five players in their 30s at the Groupama
All of them -- Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic, Messi
and Suarez -- are vital, and Valverde needs them at their best in
the weeks ahead.
There are two trips to Real Madrid to come in the next 10 days,
one in the Copa del Rey and one in La Liga.
An eighth league title in 11 seasons seems likely, but there is
work to be done if they are to be the side to end Madrid's recent
dominance in the Champions League, starting up front.