Barcelona clueless, and Luis Enrique takes the blame
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MADRID — Barcelona didn't have a clue, and it showed.
Even with Lionel Messi playing alongside Luis Suarez and Neymar up front, Barcelona was outsmarted and outplayed at nearly every turn by Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League on Tuesday, losing 4-0 in the first leg of the last 16.
"We were expecting something else. We were prepared for a different game," Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets said. "They played better than us and had a better tactical plan than we did."
The blame for the fiasco has fallen on coach Luis Enrique — not for the first time. The team has reached the Copa del Rey final, but it trails Real Madrid in the league standings. In both domestic competitions, Barcelona has had its setbacks this season.
Nothing quite as bad as Tuesday night's rout, however.
"They outplayed us and we never had a clear idea of the game," Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta said.
The extraordinary result has left Barcelona struggling for answers, and fans wondering if the loss was just a fluke or a sign that the team's dominance may be starting to fade.
Barcelona, of course, still has a chance to overturn the deficit in the second leg on March 8 at the Camp Nou. But if not, it will be the first time in a decade that the Catalan team has failed to reach the quarterfinals.
"It's going to be difficult, almost impossible, but we will try to make it happen," Neymar said.
Barcelona never really looked comfortable against PSG, and the resounding defeat caused Luis Enrique to lose his cool in a post-match interview — a rarity in his career.
He said he was not happy with "the tone" of a reporter from a local television channel who asked about the team's failure to improve after halftime.
"I accept full responsibility, but I would like to see this same treatment when we win the matches," Luis Enrique said. "I would like to see you maintain this same personal treatment that I'm seeing now in the interviews after we win."
The last time Barcelona failed to advance past the last 16 of the Champions League was in 2006-07, when it was eliminated by Liverpool. It has won three Champions League titles in the last eight seasons, and it reached the semifinals in seven of the last nine years.
Eight out of 10 might be a goal too far.
Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni