Rakitic, Ter Stegen reflect on Barcelona's debacle at PSG, eye historic comeback
BARCELONA — No team in the history of the UEFA Champions League has ever come back to win over two legs after losing the first leg by four goals or more. But that’s exactly what Barcelona is trying to do on Wednesday in its round-of-16 return leg against PSG.
And because it’s Barcelona, because it’s Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez and Neymar, because it’s in front of a giant crowd at the Camp Nou, this is one four-goal blowout that will actually be must-see TV (FS1, 2:45 p.m. ET). It’s rare to see a team of Barça caliber put into such a position of desperation, of needing to come out guns blazing from the opening whistle in the world’s preeminent club competition.
“We have to do our best game in the last two-and-a-half years,” Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic told SI.com. “How do you say it? Nothing is impossible. If we can score an early goal and take more confidence, why not?”
Goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen kept things simple. “Never say never,” he said in an interview for the Planet Fútbol Podcast.
The stunning 4-0 first-leg defeat, in which PSG deserved not just the victory but that margin as well, “was a big surprise that we didn’t expect,” said Ter Stegen, who actually kept things from getting worse. “We always go into matches wanting to win them, and it was a really hard match there. They scored for the first time after a few chances already before, but sometimes you make mistakes you can’t change anymore. We really wanted to take the risk to keep focusing on our match, but it was really difficult. They had a good day, I think, and afterward it’s easy to talk about it. But there have been a lot of things we could have changed in these situations. We took the wrong decisions. But sometimes it happens. Not every day is a perfect day, neither for us or anybody else. But if they can win 4-0 at home in 90 minutes, we maybe have a chance [to do the same].”
As for Rakitic, he didn’t start the game in Paris, though perhaps he should have. Much has happened since that day, most notably Luis Enrique’s announcement that he will not continue as Barça’s manager past the end of this season.
But Rakitic isn’t ready to say that the 4-0 loss in Paris signaled the end of an era for this Barça team.
“Of course people have to speak about us and about this result,” Rakitic said. “We know it was really a bad game. But we also have a lot of confidence in what we are doing. We are in the final of the Copa del Rey. We have a hard situation in the Champions League, but we had a really good group stage. We are one point behind Madrid in the league (Note: This interview took place while Barcelona trailed Real Madrid. It has since made up ground and currently leads La Liga by a point). So ‘bad’ I think isn’t the situation. But of course people in the last 10 years maybe saw a Barça with 10 points more and [saw a Barça] win this game 4-0 and not lose it. But all the other teams are doing well.”
In Rakitic’s eyes, an epic comeback on Wednesday could be part of something that goes into the all-time annals of Barcelona.
“We have three months for this season, and we have to do the best three months in the history of the club,” he said. “We know it.”