Barça face cross-border issues, Athletic hit rock bottom

Tim Stannard reflects on a bad night in Europe for the Spanish mob – in particular, poor Gerard Pique...

“Ha! Zat eez wot ‘appens when ze Barca do not have ze Granada every week! Ha!” snarked a much-loved French friend of LLL after PSG's 3-2 victory in the Champions League on Tuesday night.
Actually, that's a bit of a porky-pie lie. The voice creeped out the imaginary mouth of an imaginary French friend living in the blog’s largely empty head. It is very unloved. 
Although it's a little knee-jerk, which is what LLL is all about deep down, this is one possible reaction to Barcelona's first loss this season – and the first goals conceded for that matter. Or it could just be a continuation of Barca never being particularly good on their travels in Europe, even when the side was at its peak some five years ago or so. Or simply a bad day in the football office against a PSG side that had no option but to win, after general lameness in Ligue 1. 
“Luis Enrique should take the conclusion that Europe is very different to La Liga and that nothing should be taken for granted when crossing the Pyrenees,” adjudged Francesc Aguilar in Mundo Deportivo, who was in the camp of smarting that “Paris Saint Germain is not Granada”. 

David Luiz celebrates his opener at the Parc des Princes

A poll in the same paper led with the opinion (when LLL voted anyway) that Barça had played “very badly”. Oddly, 4%, possibly of the naughty Madridista variety or clinically insane, thought that Barça played well. 

Perhaps the footballer to have the worst night of it was Gerard Piqué, who failed to start the match yet again and had an anti-doping test after the game, thus missing the plane and being forced to stay overnight in Paris. Which may not have been so bad after all. 

Bother in Bilbao

Unfortunately Athletic had another terrible time of it in Europe and look out of the Champions League before the tournament has barely got going, having picked up just one point from six after a defeat in Belarus to BATE. “The side have reached rock bottom,” lamented Marca after the 2-1 defeat in a far-off land. “It is easy to explain,” revealed a very irked manager Ernesto Valverde. “BATE were much better.” 
Moving on to Wednesday’s action, LLL is normally against managers and players pulling the “it’s a final!” emergency chain on the football express train. The fine is normally 50 quid from the blog and a harsh look. However, the one person who will always remain guilt free of this particular crime is Diego Simeone, for the simple reason that he relentlessly calls every match a final. It’s a fine motivational technique for his players, and one that's had more than a little success of late.

Simeone, pondering his next big finale

The Rojiblancos boss was at it again on Tuesday, as he looked ahead to a very tasty home clash against Juventus - one which throws up so many questions. Are Atlético still in the role of underdogs despite being last year’s finalists? Are Juventus still a shambles in Europe despite being all-conquering in Serie A?

Simeone has declared Wednesday’s clash – in what is set to be a rip-roaring Vicente Calderon – as a final, but did add that the following league game against Valencia was a final too. The reason for a bead of sweat to be rolling down the Argentine’s forehead is the fact that Atleti are already playing catch-up, having lost out to Olympiakos a fortnight ago. It's why he has made a big call in goal with Miguel Angel Moya between the sticks against Juve, rather than Jan Oblak, who was last seen conceding three in Greece. 
Real Madrid are the fourth Spanish team in action this week, and have headed for Bulgaria to Ludogorets. Rather than attempt any kind of prediction, the blog will just leave that in the hands of Marca, which is expecting some kind of double-figure rout from “the fury of the dragon” and “the terror of Europe”.
Atletico Madrid vs Juventus and Ludogorets vs Real Madrid LIVE ANALYSIS with Stats Zone