First comes the incredulity and then comes the inquest. Barcelona’s 4-0 loss to Liverpool had many culprits according to the Spanish media: Phiippe Coutinho, Ernesto Valverde and Jordi Alba among them.
There were plenty of pictures of the Anfield scoreboard in the Spanish press on Wednesday morning. It was if as the Liverpool 4 Barcelona 0 needed to be seen again to be believed.
“Embarrassment” headlined El Mundo Deportivo. Diario AS went with “Anfield Thunder” and Marca chose “Historic Debacle”. Once the dust settles on Barcelona’s unexpected exit the blame game will begin.
Coach Ernesto Valverde will be first in line. He has only just signed a new deal but after taking charge of last year’s 3-0 loss to Roma he now has another big European failure on his CV.
Even his staunchest supporters in El Mundo Deportivo questioned his late changes and the decision to take off Arturo Vidal who most Spanish media rated as Barcelona’s best player.
The players did not escape the blame.
One commentator called the corner that led to the fourth goal a “Marx brothers set-piece”.
And Diario AS rated Jordi Alba’s performance as “A disaster”.
There were also questions asked of Philippe Coutinho who had been whistled off by his own supporters in the first leg and was jeered off by Anfield in the second leg.
“Does Coutinho have a future in this team,” asked Marca columnist Luis Rojo. “Not even the extra motivation of playing in his old stadium could inspire him,” he said.
It was the spirit of the team and the superior spirit of the side that beat them that also became the focus of much of the inquest.
“The attitude was wrong” said Luis Suarez post game and he was not alone in questioning the backbone of the team when they travel away from home in the Champions League.
They have now suffered heavy defeats on their travels in the Champions League in four of the last five years against Roma, Turin and Paris Saint Germain.
One possible antidote to the depression that will now inevitably descend over the club even if they beat Valencia in the Spanish Cup final on May 25 will be transfer talk.
“The option of reopening the Antoine Griezmann debate,” was put forward as a possibility by Marca.
The enduring image from the defeat, beyond the sight of Barcelona defenders with their back to the Trent Alexander-Arnold corner that caught them out, was the sight of Sergio Busquets almost in tears during his immediate post-match interview.
“I just want to say sorry to the supporters,” he said. “After Roma [last year’s 3-0 defeat that knocked them out] we didn’t want this to happen again.”
“If you don’t press against a team like this and you don’t take your chances then you’re in trouble. It’s hard to say anything else. We are sorry to our fans. I don’t know what happened with the last goal. They were just cleverer than us.” (dpa)