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Champions League recap: Barcelona still awesome

No team featuring Lionel Messi can safely be written off in the UEFA Champions League.

Barcelona's front three: Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann and Luis Suárez
Barcelona's front three: Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann and Luis Suárez @Getty Images

Stunned by Liverpool in last season's semis, will Barcelona be the ones springing the surprises in the final stages of the 2019/20 competition?

Rule changes for this season

Season so far

Highlights: Barcelona 3-1 Dortmund

Form guide: W4 D4 L0 F10 A5
Top scorer: Luis Suárez (3)

Their campaign in ten words: Unbeaten and out to atone for last season's semis exit.

Group F winners
Dortmund 0-0 Barcelona
Barcelona 2-1 Inter Milan (Luis Suárez 58 84; Martínez 3)
Slavia Praha 1-2 Barcelona (Bořil 50; Messi 3, Olayinka 57og)
Barcelona 0-0 Slavia Praha
Barcelona 3-1 Dortmund (Luis Suárez 29, Messi 33, Griezmann 67; Sancho 77)
Inter Milan 1-2 Barcelona (Romelu Lukaku 44; Carles Pérez 23, Fati 86)

Round of 16

First leg (25 February): Napoli 1-1 Barcelona (Mertens 30; Griezmann 57)

Highlights: Napoli 1-1 Barcelona

Though Barcelona were up against the ropes for long periods against a spirited Napoli side, Antoine Griezmann managed to cancel out Dries Mertens' opener. That away goal puts them in the driving seat for the return leg.

Expert view: Graham Hunter, UEFA.com Barcelona reporter

You'd imagine, simply looking at the stats, that this is an exuberant, buoyant Barcelona ready to launch a charge at winning their cherished tournament. Unbeaten in Europe and twice victorious against a powerful Inter side, they have shown flashes of brilliance, especially when all three forwards – Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez and Antoine Griezmann – scored at home to Dortmund.

Instead, there are some dark clouds over the Camp Nou: Slavia Praha might easily have taken four points instead of one, Barça's form is unpredictable and Ousmane Dembélé's injury recovery is going slowly. That said, Suárez (much to Messi's delight) is back to help the cause.

Who’s in charge?

A self-proclaimed disciple of Johann Cruyff, Quique Setién replaced Ernesto Valverde in January. Known for his possession-based philosophy and aesthetically pleasing football, the 61-year-old has taken on by far the biggest job of his career, which hitherto featured spells in charge of Racing Santander, Las Palmas, Real Betis and the Equatorial Guinea national team.

Key quote: "Sometimes you see players who can suddenly perform and you think: 'Blimey! Where did that come from?' You wonder how they're suddenly so good. And it's because you give them something they like: the ball."

Tactical approach

Johan Cruyff coach-a-like Quique Setién
Johan Cruyff coach-a-like Quique SetiénGetty Images

Setién has flitted between a traditional 4-3-3 set-up and a more-solid looking 4-4-2, with youngster Riqui Puig staking a claim for a regular starting berth in midfield. The return from injury of Frenkie de Jong will be a welcome boost for their second leg against Napoli, but Ousmane Dembélé faces a race against time to be fit.

Star player: Lionel Messi

Who else? The evergreen Argentinian continues to light up Camp Nou season after season. Just two goals in the UEFA Champions League this term, but his presence makes a difference still.