With their place in the knock-out rounds already secured, Luis Enrique’s men will have one thing at the top of their priority list.
Despite the inevitable rhetoric about taking each game as it comes, this season Barcelona have the opportunity to create history in Europe’s premier competition.
Since its inception in 1992, the Champions League has produced some of world football’s most revered sides, however, none have managed to retain their title.
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Many have come close: Louis van Gaal’s revolutionary Ajax team reached the 1996 final only to lose on penalties, whilst Barcelona themselves thwarted Manchester United in 2009 - a year on from the latter’s memorable night in Moscow.
As the dominant force in club football for the best part of a decade, Lionel Messi and company will feel aggrieved they are yet to accomplish this feat. They were unceremoniously dumped out of the semi-final in 2010 by a Jose Mourinho inspired Inter Milan, whilst 2012 saw them caught up in Chelsea’s seemingly impossible dream.
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The competition is still in its infancy this season and nothing can be taken for granted nevertheless, the Catalan club are looking increasingly imposing.
Much of the aftermath of Saturday’s El Clasico has centred on Real Madrid coach Rafa Benitez’s future along with Cristiano Ronaldo’s apparent post-match histrionics however, they shouldn’t mask just how good Barcelona were.
Without Messi, the reigning La Liga champions dismantled their fiercest rivals with a victory so comprehensive, their success on a domestic front looks inevitable. Luis Suarez and Neymar continued their incredible form, until the second-half they had scored all 19 of Barcelona’s goals since Messi’s injury, whilst Andres Iniesta reminded all that at 31, he is still Europe’s most complete midfielder.
Alongside him, Ivan Rakitic continued to showcase what an outstanding acquisition he was from Sevilla last summer, whilst Gerard Pique looks to have resumed his form of 2009 at centre-back. Inevitably as their success continues, however, much of the spotlight will focus on Enrique’s enviable front three.
Messi returned on Tuesday, not only to aid in the 6-1 demolition of Roma - scoring twice - but also to reunite arguably the greatest front three in the competition’s history.
With their combined goal threat, Suarez’s work rate and ability to interchange positions; the Uruguayan, Neymar and four time Ballon d’Or winner Messi are eclipsing Real’s previously heralded BBC, the former combination of Thierry Henry, Samuel Eto’o and Messi and the 2011 vintage of Messi, Pedro and David Villa.
Nothing is a formality at sport’s highest level and there is a good reason why the Champions League is yet to be retained. Former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola has instilled his philosophy into a Bayern Munich side intent on channelling their domestic dominance onto the bigger stage, whilst tacticians like Benitez and Mourinho - provided they are both still in a job towards the season’s finale - always pose a threat over two legs.
However, with forwards who scored 122 goals between them in all competitions last season, a possession-based philosophy and a combined team ethic that must make Benitez green with envy, Barcelona stand on the threshold of football history.
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