Barcelona were frustrated by Galatasaray as Xavi’s team could only manage a 0-0 draw at Camp Nou in the first leg of their Europa League tussle.
These teams will try again in Istanbul next week, with a quarter-final place at stake, and Barcelona could rue the opportunities they missed in this contest.
Xavi was an unused substitute when these teams last met, in the 2002-03 Champions League, but here he was orchestrating from the bench as head coach.
Barcelona almost snatched the lead with a freakish goal, when an overhead kick from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was going well wide before Frenkie de Jong instinctively flung out a leg and volleyed against the left post, but it was not to be their night.
The hosts wanted an early penalty when Adama Traore’s cross hit the arm of Kerem Akturkoglu but had to settle for a corner. Memphis Depay then tested Galatasaray goalkeeper Inaki Pena – on loan from Barcelona – with a fiercely struck free-kick from 22 yards in the 27th minute, the first shot on target in the contest.
This incarnation of Galatasaray sit only 12th in the Turkish Super Lig, a pale shadow of their great teams, but they almost had a goal to rank among their finest in Europe.
A slaloming, bustling run down the left by Akturkoglu, starting deep inside his own half, ended with a dart into the penalty area and a shot from 15 yards being deflected inches over for a corner by Eric Garcia.
Barcelona made three changes for the start of the second half, Xavi looking to jolt his team as he withdrew Ronald Araujo, Nico and Ferran Torres, bringing on Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Ousmane Dembele.
Busquets had a header tipped over and home captain Jordi Alba cracked a powerful right-footed volley a foot wide of the left post, before De Jong almost put away Aubameyang’s wayward effort.
Galatasaray thought they had snatched a winner against the run of play through Bafetimbi Gomis, as the striker smashed past Marc-Andre ter Stegen, but he had strayed offside.
What does it mean? Barca out of luck but short on finesse
Nobody would deny Barcelona bossed this game, with 15 shots to Galatasaray’s three and 68.2 per cent of the possession. But they lacked quality in the final third, as Traore, Alba and Dembele struggled to pick out team-mates with crosses.
Barcelona feared they had been stung by a sucker-punch when Gomis bounded through to put the ball in the net, but the offside flag spared them.
Xavi’s players should still have enough to overcome this limited Galatasaray side next week, but they have left themselves more work than seemed necessary.
A dry night, where goals once rained
It was five years ago this week when Barcelona stunned Paris Saint-Germain 6-1 in this stadium, overturning a 4-0 first-leg deficit to reach the Champions League quarter-finals in sensational style. Many inside Camp Nou for this one would have been at that game too, and the standard was incomparable.
This Barcelona team may have outpassed Galatasaray 631 to 307, but they are imitators of greatness, a bad cover version of a great record. And now they are at risk of elimination against the worst Galatasaray side in many a year.
On a wing and a prayer
Between them, Traore, Alba, Dembele and Depay attempted 35 crosses in this game. Only three found team-mates, as too often deliveries from the flanks appeared to be delivered in hope rather than with conviction, with Barcelona lacking presence in the penalty area.
Barcelona are back on Camp Nou duty on Sunday when they face Osasuna in LaLiga. Galatasaray face Besiktas in a big Super Lig derby on Monday.Follow us on Social Media