Here we are on the cusp of Barcelona’s biggest couple of weeks of the 2018/19 season.
At the time of writing, the match against Lyon is a few hours away, the first of four huge games for the Catalans, all away from home.
Following the trip to France, Ernesto Valverde’s side travel to Sevilla in La Liga before a double header against Real Madrid in the space of 72 hours.The return leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final comes first followed by a league fixture, the first time in Barcelona’s history that they’ve played two games in succession at the Santiago Bernabeu.
At the end of the quartet of matches, we’ll have a much clearer picture as to how Barca’s season could potentially end up.
But there’s little point in looking further ahead than the game which is immediately upon us.
Lyon are likely to prove problematic for the Blaugrana.
Though they’re missing Nabil Fekir, they have pace throughout the side and love to attack down the flanks.
Not to mention Lyon’s quality at set-pieces, another Achilles Heel for Barcelona.
Further, they’ve really struggled away from home in the Champions League knockout stages.
So much so, that their last win away from the Camp Nou that wasn’t in the group stage came way back in February 2016 against Arsenal.
It’s an appalling return for a club of Barca’s stature, and if they’ve genuine aspirations of going all the way again this year, four years after the last time they lifted the trophy, then their away form has to improve.
Fortunately, in the last four games against Lyon, including the two in France, Barcelona have remained unbeaten, and Valverde will be banking on the same again in order that the Catalans hold the advantage in the return on March 13.
One player who really needs to step up to the mark is Luis Suarez.
It’s been three years since he scored an away goal in the competition, and in Europe generally, his form has really tailed off in the past two seasons.
At 32 he’s getting no younger, but he’s still regarded as one of the best strikers on the continent. Now he must go out and prove it.
With Messi having already scored 30 goals this season, the visitors will look to him again, but Valverde won’t care who finds the net as long as they do at the OL Stadium.