Without Lionel Messi in their starting side, Barcelona were almost eliminated from the Champions League quarterfinals at the hands of Paris Saint Germain.
Needing just a draw to book their place in the final four, the Catalan club appeared destined to leave the Nou Camp with an easy victory in the bag, but after some inspired play from the French club, la Blaugrana found themselves trailing 3-2 on aggregate and in need of some magic.
Of course, they would turn to their recently injured star Messi, who, despite not being 100 percent, was able to set up Barcelona's equalizer on the night and send them through to the semifinals as a result.
It was the result that we had all expected, in a way, but it came about via very different circumstances to what we had predicted. And as a result, several big storylines emerged from the victory for both Barcelona, Paris Saint Germain and the Champions League as a whole.
Read on to see the top storylines from this epic quarterfinal second leg.
Will Barcelona be Favorites in Their Semifinal?
Barcelona are through to another Champions League semifinal, but this year La Blaugrana are through in much different style to that of years gone past.
Barcelona is the first club to reach six straight European Cup semifinals.— Paul Carr (@PCarrESPN) April 10, 2013
With a defeat to AC Milan in the round of 16 and then two draws against PSG, the Catalan club have not shown the same dominance as we've come to expect from Barcelona this year. Moreover, they've appeared to be very vulnerable in defense (as seen in the group stage also) and without the same intensity and direction that made them seem unbeatable in world football.
The reality is that the three teams that they could play in the semifinal—Bayern Munich, Real Madrid or Borussia Dortmund—are all capable of toppling Barca if they play their best. Bayern's midfield and attack is so strong, Dortmund are explosive on the counterattack and Madrid have already shown this year to have the pieces on hand to shut down La Blaugrana.
Could this be the first year in a long time where Barca isn't the favorite to win their semifinal? Or will the Catalan club still be the team to beat?
Just How Good will PSG be Next Year?
Paris Saint Germain have flown under the radar somewhat this year up until the Champions League. But now that they've shown what they can do, they definitely won't go under any radars any time in the near future—and for good reason, given the depth of talent existent at PSG.
The French club have acquired a very strong squad that is filled with individual talent and good connections, and they showed how good they can be against Barca. What's more, they did it without playing the 10-man defense-in-the-box pattern that we've seen so many teams employ this year to try and slow down the Spanish heavyweights' attack.
PSG took the attack to Barca, and at times, they won.
It's been coming. Fine work from Zlatan, calm finish from Pastore. Multi-million pound goal in the making.— Will Tidey (@willtidey) April 10, 2013
Guys like Lucas Moura will continue to improve with every passing year, and if they can continue to add to their squad this summer, they'll be a very strong team to contend with next season.
The French giants seem likely to win Ligue 1, and will thus be back in the Champions League. Just how far they'll go in 2013 still remains to be seen.
Do Barcelona Over-Rely on Lionel Messi?
Having a superstar player in your team like Messi is no doubt a blessing for Barcelona, for his ability to change a game continues to give them big results when they need it most. But after watching their play for the first 90 minutes in this one, you wonder whether Barca have become over-relient on Messi to the extent that their attack is hindered without him.
Roura (assistant): "The sole presence of Messi had an influence on the opponent." #fcblive— barcastuff (@barcastuff) April 10, 2013
Villa: "Messi is the best player in the world. His sole presence changes a game. His commitment with the team should be applauded." #fcblive— Messi Left Foot (@messileftfoot) April 10, 2013
FT Messi's match winning contribution - passes received & player dashboard chalkboards: fourfourtwo.com/statszone/shar…— Stats Zone (@StatsZone) April 10, 2013
Milan's tactic in the round of 16 was to shut down Messi by sticking two defenders on him. They didn't care, to some extent, if that meant Andres Iniesta had a little more space and whether Xavi was able to push up and contribute into the attack more the usual.
They knew that eliminating Messi was the key, and it gave them a big win because of it—something PSG nearly did twice once Messi went off with injury.
Whilst the Argentinian international will probably be completely healthy by the time the semifinals roll around, Barca must figure out ways to not stay over-reliant on Messi. Bayern and Dortmund in particular are very strong in defense and have the physical presence needed to shut down the 25-year-old, which could very well happen if drawn in the semifinals.
The Guardian calls it "Messidependencia."
Whether it will be a blessing or a curse in the semifinals still remains to be seen.