IF BARCELONA fail to secure their eighth consecutive Champions League quarterfinal appearance, Lionel Messi’s failed penalty at Manchester City on Tuesday could well prove their “what if” moment.
Barca were leading 2-1 in the last 16, first leg at the Etihad Stadium thanks to a Luis Suarez brace when Messi stepped up to take an added-time spot kick.
City goalkeeper Joe Hart denied the Argentina captain and gave the Premier League side a much better chance of overturning the deficit in the second leg at the Nou Camp on March 18.
Messi has a penalty record any player would envy, with a success rate of around 90%, but his fluffed effort brought back memories of a missed spot kick early in the second half of Barca’s semifinal, second leg at home to Chelsea in April 2012, which gave Chelsea a final win.
Despite Tuesday’s setback, Barca should have more than enough quality to see off City, and midfielder Andres Iniesta said the 2-1 away success was a very good result for the La Liga giants, who bounced back from a surprise defeat to Malaga at the weekend.
“We should focus on the positive sensations we are taking away from the match,” Iniesta said. “We dominated for a good length of time and the team did some great work. For the penalty, even if Messi had scored it, the tie would in no way have been over.
Barca, who still have a chance of repeating 2009’s treble of Spanish league and Cup and Champions League, have four matches before City’s visit.
They host Granada in La Liga on Saturday, take a 3-1 lead to Villarreal for the second leg of their King’s Cup semifinal on March 4 and then have La Liga games against Rayo Vallecano and Eibar.