It's make or break for Barcelona after setbacks in Liga & CL

ABS-CBN Sports on Apr 15, 2017 08:09 AM
It's make or break for Barcelona after setbacks in Liga & CL
FILE - In this file photo dated Saturday April 8, 2017, FC Barcelona's coach Luis Enrique waits for the start of a Spanish La Liga soccer match between Malaga and Barcelona in Malaga, Spain. With a Champions League title, two Liga crowns, and two Copa del Rey trophies, Luis Enrique is very successful, but as from Friday April 14, 2017, the next nine days will determine Barcelona’s 2017 season, and whether he will be considered among the Spanish club's finest ever coaches. (AP Photo/Daniel Tejedor, FILE)

JOSEPH WILSON, Associated Press

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — The next nine days will determine Barcelona's season, and how well Luis Enrique will be farewelled.

Luis Enrique has had an incredibly successful managerial stint at Barcelona. A Champions League title, two Liga crowns, and two Copa del Rey trophies give him enough to compare with club great Pep Guardiola.

But the 3-0 loss at Juventus on Wednesday was the third big defeat suffered by Barcelona on the road in the Champions League, following a 3-1 setback at Manchester City and a 4-0 rout at Paris Saint-Germain.

The historic 6-1 win over PSG in the return leg kept Barcelona alive in Europe, only for the club to fall back into another big hole after its thumping in Turin.

Not only is its place in the Champions League quarterfinals hanging by a thread, but also its shot at retaining the Liga title.

The 2-0 loss at Malaga by Barcelona last weekend gave Real Madrid a clear path to reclaiming the Spanish league title for the first time since 2012. Madrid has a three-point lead and a game in hand.

That all means Barcelona's hopes in both competitions will be decided over the next week and a half.

Barcelona hosts Real Sociedad in the domestic league on Saturday.

It then must mount a comeback against Juventus on Wednesday to reach Europe's final four.

And, just to round the challenge off, four days later Barcelona heads to the Santiago Bernabeu to face Madrid in a clasico that will either rekindle Barcelona's domestic defense or give Madrid a commanding advantage.

"Everything depends on us getting back to winning against Real (Sociedad) at home," Luis Enrique said on Friday. "We need those three points to arrive in the best possible condition."

In their last meeting in the Copa del Rey in January, Barcelona beat Sociedad 5-2 at Camp Nou. Sixth-placed Sociedad earned a 1-1 draw at home in the first league match this season.

Barcelona will be without Neymar for three league matches, after the Spanish federation tacked on two more matches for his sarcastic applause of the referee to a one-game suspension after he was sent off against Malaga.

Luis Enrique, who announced last month he will leave the club after the season to rest, is trying to stay optimistic.

"These have been three very intense years. Maybe the best is yet to come," the former Barcelona midfielder added.

"I don't have any doubts of my team's possibilities, nor that we can turn around the tie (against Juventus). In fact, it will be easier than what we had to do against PSG."

Whatever happens in the next nine days, Barcelona has a hand on at least one trophy already: It plays the Copa del Rey final against Alaves next month.

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