Barcelona, Dortmund clutching European lifelines

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Barcelona, Dortmund clutching European lifelines
Barcelona training session. (FILE PHOTO: AFP)

BARCELONA: Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund are among the top scorers in the Champions League this season and will need their sharp-shooters at their deadliest to stay in the hunt for Europe’s biggest prize.

Both sides are aiming to pull off unlikely comebacks in quarter-final second legs on Wednesday on what promises to be another night of high drama.

Holders Real Madrid and last year’s beaten finalists — and city rivals — Atletico are already in the hat for Friday’s semi-final draw.

Led by Lionel Messi and Neymar, Barca made history in the previous round, becoming the first side to overturn a four-goal first-leg deficit to progress.

And how: three goals in the closing minutes at the Camp Nou propelled them to a stunning 6-1 thrashing of Paris Saint-Germain and a quarter-final berth.

But any hopes they had learnt their lesson disappeared in last week’s first leg in Turin where Juventus ran out deserved 3-0 winners and Messi was largely anonymous.

It might seem a tall order to pull off another stirring comeback — even for Barcelona — but the Spanish champions have scored a minimum of four goals in every home match in this season’s competition and they haven’t been playing Champions League novices.

Manchester City and Borussia Moenchengladbach shipped four each, PSG leaked six and Celtic’s goal was breached seven times.

Barca coach Luis Enrique maintains belief in his “group of winners and champions capable of anything”.

“In the previous tie we were able to overcome an even more difficult result,” he said.

But Juve might be a different proposition altogether, having conceded only two goals in eight games in Europe.

And if anyone knows how to defend a lead away from home, it’s an Italian team.

Modest Malaga have cracked the code to stopping Barca’s much-vaunted attacking triumvirate of Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar.

This month they beat Barcelona 2-0 having held them to a 0-0 draw at the Camp Nou in November — Juve coach Massimiliano Allegri will surely have studied those matches.

Dortmund meanwhile trail only by a single goal to Monaco but they will have to launch a comeback away from home and with the trauma of last week’s attack on their team bus still fresh in the memory.

A subdued Dortmund lost 3-2 at home to the French Ligue 1 leaders — clearly affected by the triple bomb blast the day before that forced a 24-hour postponement of the game and left Spanish defender Marc Bartra in hospital with a broken wrist.

The task facing Borussia is perhaps more about managing their emotions than simply trying to overcome free-scoring opponents who were the second side in Europe to reach 100 goals in all competitions this season — beaten only by Barca by a few minutes.

Following Saturday’s 3-1 win over Eintracht Frankfurt, Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel praised his side’s “incredible character” but admitted his players are still “learning to deal with the fluctuating emotions”.

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