Valverde calls on Barca to overcome away-day challenge in Champions League

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Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde hopes his team have learned the lessons of last year’ humiliation in Rome as they look for a rare win on the road in the Champions League in Tuesday’s clash with Lyon.

The Spanish champions are in France for the first leg of their last-16 tie, their first knockout match in the competition since their shock collapse in last season’s quarter-finals.

Then, Barcelona lost 3-0 away to Roma to bow out on away goals after winning 4-1 in the first leg at home.

They have not won any of their last five away games in the Champions League knockout rounds, losing four of them while scoring just once and conceding 13 goals.

“It shows that it is a hard competition, but challenges are there to be overcome,” said Valverde at a press conference at Lyon’s Groupama Stadium on Monday.

He pointed out that his team had performed well on the road in this season’s group stage, taking seven points from a possible nine and notably beating Tottenham Hotspur 4-2 at Wembley.

“It was also said that we couldn’t score goals but we have done that this season against difficult opponents like Tottenham and Inter.”

The humiliation against Roma last season clouded Valverde’s debut campaign in charge at the Camp Nou, despite the Catalans winning a domestic double.

– ‘Guard up’ –

But they came into this season spurred on by a desire to end Real Madrid’s recent dominance in Europe as they look to lift the Champions League trophy for the first time since 2015.

“When we came into that match (against Roma), I remember everyone telling us they were the best opponents for us, that they were the weakest side, but that did not help us,” Valverde added.

“We need to come into these games not with our guard down but with our guard up.”

Barcelona came to France having lost just twice in the last three months, and both losses came in Copa del Rey ties they eventually won over two legs.

Their recent performances have been patchy, however, with three straight draws preceding Saturday’s laboured 1-0 win over Valladolid, secured thanks to a Lionel Messi penalty.

“Our problem has always been away from home, but it also depends on the order of the two legs,” said midfielder Sergio Busquets, who played when Barcelona drew 1-1 in Lyon at this stage 10 years ago, on the way to a 6-3 aggregate victory.

“We know how to suffer, which you have to do in every game, especially in the Champions League.”

The return will be at the Camp Nou on March 13, and Busquets added: “You get chances in every game, and we need to try to improve on previous years and get a good result for the second leg.”(AFP)

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