The keyword is RESPECT — or more accurately, a lack thereof. It’s the only way we can explain the madness that happened in Rome on Tuesday night. It’s one of Barcelona’s worst defeats in recent times, and one that will make Catalans wonder if Ernesto Valverde and certain players really deserve to wear the Barcelona jersey.
When you reach the quarter finals of the Champions League, you have to respect your opponents, because you know that every team that made it to that stage didn’t get there by accident. They are there because they worked hard, they played with commitment, and they respected their opponents.
This was the first time in Barcelona Champions League history that Barcelona was eliminated in the knockout stage after winning over three goals in the first leg. According to Eaton Thatcher, editor at My Top Sportsbooks: Roma was a 74/1 longshot to advance heading into the game, which gave them barely a 1% chance to advance. This failure falls clearly in the lap of Ernesto Valverde.
The mission was clear — to enter Stadio Olimpico and make sure there was no defeat. Of course, any draw or defeat by one or two goals would be understandable. Barca just needed to score, and they didn’t need to score two or three goals — they needed to score one goal and defend well. It looked possible to a majority of the fans and pundits. No one even entertained the idea that Barcelona would not go through to the semis. But we all forgot that players have to play, and the coach has to make the right decisions. The final results reminded us all that in sports as well as in life, you can’t underestimate anyone.
Barcelona started the game casually, since they knew that they were ahead of Roma by four goals. They allowed Roma to play and hold possession, they didn’t bother to organize themselves, and some players even looked like they were waiting for the final whistle so that they could jump on the plane and go back home. They didn’t go to Rome to play — their attitude was, “This game will be another walk-in-the-park.”
As spectators, we know when the team tries and can’t find their way. We know when the team sweats and gives their all. And we know when the team is not capable because of the quality of the opponents. But this Barcelona humiliation didn’t come from any of those things. The defeat resulted from lack of respect, lack of interest, and lack of effort until the final five minutes. Barcelona fans didn’t recognize their team. The only team that came to play was Roma.
Valverde will need to do some deep self-reflection, because even if Barcelona goes on to win La Liga and Copa Del Rey, this game will stay in the minds of the fans for a long while. This defeat is unexplainable and damaging, and it puts a question mark on whether Valverde is the right man to lead Barcelona to the highest level.