How Barcelona defeated quarterfinal demons


By guest contributor Soham Banerjee (@IamSohamB). 

As the final stages of the season approaches, it's apparent that the Blaugrana has certainly been more determined to capture another treble than recent seasons. The club's talisman, Lionel Messi, seems to be more hungry than ever to add a fifth Champions League trophy to his tally, a number that would equal the record of Cristiano Ronaldo. Can the greatest of all time help Barcelona become the only city to be home to a treble of trebles?

After three disappointing seasons, the club has finally cracked the quarterfinal code after downing one of the largest teams in Europe. As evidenced by their recent 4-0 loss to Everton, Manchester United are not the Ryan Giggs and Roy Keane Red Devils of yesteryear but they are still a huge club that needed to be respected. The convincing four goal margin put the exclamation on the encounter. For as expected as a victory in the quarterfinal was for Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus may have thought the same thing before being dismantled by upstart Ajax. Looking at the recent seasons with losses to Roma, Juventus and Atlético Madrid, the rest for key members of the squad has been a major difference. International break rest for Messi and Luis Suárez this season appears to be paying dividends in the latter part of this season.

Squad rotation has been a major critique of Ernesto Valverde's tenure, but he seems to have adjusted his tactics this season. Systematically rotating the squad based on opponents has proven to be key and Valverde seems to have learned his lesson after playing with a predictable line-up and expected tactics throughout much of last season. Rotating key players, including Messi, Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic (yes, even Rakitic) has given the team legs later in the season. In addition, Valverde's dedication to playing a 4-3-3 to allow more attacking football and rarely relying on the double pivot this season has kept opponents guessing.

The most obvious aspect of the club's success compared to last year is the new additions to the club. Clément Lenglet, Arturo Vidal, Arthur, Malcom and the star against Alavés, Carles Aleñá, have limited the drop-off when it was time to rotate. All of them have proven their mettle and have been significant figures in key matches. Lenglet, Vidal and Arthur have starred in plenty of matches this season while Malcom's campaign may be best remembered for his stunning performance against Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey. Josep Bartomeu, Eric Abidal and the rest of Barcelona's brass deserve some credit for their summer work.

With everything going right for Barcelona at the moment, the club needs to make sure they stay consistent with what they are doing and continue with what has improved the team from last year. This season has been one of the best in years and under the leadership of Messi, fans remain hopeful that another treble could soon be added to the trophy cabinet.