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Wednesday February 15 2017
Lucho's last tango?

Barcelona were out-thought and outfought by Paris Saint-Germain in Tuesday night's Champions League encounter to leave Luis Enrique's future in doubt, writes Daryl Hammond.

As a diminutive playmaker ran the show from midfield and a left-footed magician scored two mesmerising goals, you could be forgiven for rubbing your eyes and wondering which side in blue was which.

PSG looked like Barcelona, at least the Barca that many became infatuated with, as opposed to the apathetic side who slopped into Paris and were played off the park.

The Parisians pressed dutifully, tackled toughly and moved the ball with purpose, while the Catalans looked rusty in all these areas. Far from a smash and grab, they were dominated by Unai Emery’s side.

Serious questions will now be asked of Luis Enrique’s tactical nous and subsequently his future at the club. From team selection, to tactics and even motivation, he got this game wrong.

Andre Gomes was coupled with Sergio Roberto on the right-hand side and they were exposed innumerably by Julian Draxler, with Blaugrana fans surely wishing Ivan Rakitic and the crocked Aleix Vidal were available.

Wait. Isn’t that Rakitic curiously perched on the bench in one of Barcelona’s biggest games thus far? Though he did make an appearance, it wasn’t until the match was well and truly out of his side’s hands, they could have done with his guile and endeavour in the middle.

In his stead, Marco Verratti, Adrien Rabiot and Blaise Matuidi had boundless space in midfield to exploit, and did so with a cutting-edge Barca lacked.

Sometimes, you get it wrong. That happens. Perhaps more disappointing for the Catalan fans was the lack of improvement in the second half.

Enrique’s side should have emerged with renewed vigour, and a game plan on how to combat the Parisians in the second half. That didn’t happen. There was no plan B, or even any variation on plan A.

For so long the former Coach of Roma and Celta Vigo has banked on the individual qualities of Messi, Neymar and Suarez to turn losses into draws and draws into wins when they underperformed.

And many will point to the Argentine’s non-performance in perhaps the worst game of his career. His passes were awry, attacking threat non-existent, and few would have thought he would surrender possession so easily for PSG’s breakaway second.

Barcelona players generally did not cover themselves in glory. A second-string PSG defence without the energetic Serge Aurier and the intelligence of captain Thiago Silva were not troubled. A 22-year-old and 21-year-old centre back pairing still kept Europe’s most feared attack in check.

One or two players underperforming is one thing. When it’s the whole team, fingers begin to point to the management. With a potential seven-point gap to make-up in La Liga, questions will now be asked of the manager’s future.

Credit must go to PSG and Unai Emery, who used his experiences with Sevilla to draw up a considered game plan, choking the influence of key players such as Messi and Sergio Busquets and it worked better than they could have hoped.

Whether his Barcelona equivalent had as detailed a plan is questionable. Expect some low scores for players in the morning paper’s ratings, but the manager deservedly scores a zero for a rather inept tactical showing.

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