When people talk about Barcelona the first thing that comes to your mind is Lionel Messi.
No one epitomises the spirit of Barca more than him. He has been their talisman, scoring a mind-blowing 215 goals in 245 matches and winning a total of 19 titles including three Champions League triumphs and five La Liga titles as well.
Messi kick started an era of dominance and he’s been aided by some of the best players in the world in Andres Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez from midfield and Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique in the back but ultimately it is La Pulga that give Blaugrana the killer edge.
So when Bayern Munich absolutely destroyed Barca in the semi-final of the Champions League the question on everyone’s lips were the same.
Can Barca survive without their little magician, Lionel Messi?
The quarter-final match against Paris Saint Germain was the first indicator. After the first game ended in a draw there was everything to play for in the second leg, which made headlines before the game due to the absence of Messi due to a hamstring injury. Despite the injury he bailed them out just in time to scrape through to the semis but one thing became very clear that day. Barcelona are not the same team without Leo and looked out of sorts until he got into the game, with his presence undeniable.
The next match saw Messi restored to the starting lineup to great relief of all the Barca supporters. 90 minutes later, the rout was completed and Barcelona fans all over the world were left devastated.
Leo, carrying an injury, was a shadow of the player he usually is and Catalunya’s plan to disrupt Bayern Munich’s plan as they did at PSG backfired as Die Roten cruised through. The second leg followed the same trend with Messi as an unused substitute this time.
After that defeat, centre-back Pique told reporters: "The fact Lionel Messi, the best player in the world, did not play was a factor.
"But I do not think [he] would have changed things all that much."
The fact is that Bayern, even with the form they are in, are beatable and at home as well as showcased by Arsenal. Whether Messi would have made a difference if he was fit is a question to which we will never get an answer.
When in form Barca can score with Messi generally at the end of most of the attacks. Without him they have found goals hard to come by with on one willing to step up. While it is true that Barca have won 13 of their last 14 matches without the Argentinian ace but they were against lesser teams.
In this Champions League campaign the second highest scorer for Barca after Messi was Jordi Alba, a full-back. Lack of a natural goal scorer in the absence of Messi and a struggling back-line which has yet to fixed yet will make this an interesting summer for Barca.
When Cristiano Ronaldo left Manchester United for Real Madrid everyone assumed that they would crumble after the loss of their star player but they continued to persevere and win titles. Now it's time for Barcelona to show their mettle and prove their critics wrong.
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