By Pilar Suarez
Ever since Pep Guardiola first took charge of the Camp Nou bench in 2008, Barcelona have been performing at the highest of levels, resulting in 13 titles and many glorious moments.
But something has happened to the side this term. After three seasons where they won almost everything there is to win, they now find themselves in a tough spot: seven points behind Real Madrid in La Liga and a complicated Champions League semi-final tie against Roberto Di Matteo's reinvigorated Chelsea. But what is the reason for such a disparity in form? What conclusions can be drawn from Barcelona's European campaign so far?
One of the key issues which could explain the Catalans' dip in form in the last four years is related to the difference in the team's performances at home and on the road.
|GIANTS AT HOME, BUT NOT ON THE ROAD
In the Champions League, Barca's record in Catalunya is impressive: they have only lost three games in the last four editions of the tournament: in 2008-09, they stumbled to a 3-2 reverse against Shakhtar Donetsk and a year later, they suffered a 1-0 defeat to Rubin Kazan. Chelsea, Inter, Bayern Munich and Madrid, meanwhile, are some of the sides who left Camp Nou empty-handed. This season, they have won almost every home game, with the 2-2 group-stage draw against AC Milan the only anomaly in their European campaign.
Even before this term, Barca's record away from home was just as impressive: in the previous three seasons, they played 57 matches, winning 40, drawing 12 and losing just five, three of which came in Guardiola's first year. However, the Catalans have had more problems than usual in 2011-12. Barca have suffered three defeats, against Getafe (1-0) and Osasuna (3-2) on the road and Chelsea (1-0). In addition, they have been held on six occasions.
Barca, though, have a tendency to rise to the challenge in the crucial moments, like against Arsenal in the 2009-10 Champions League quarter-finals and again the next year in the last 16. On both occasions, Arsene Wenger thought he had found the formula to beating Lionel Messi's & Co. They held the Blaugrana to a 2-2 draw at the Emirates in 2010 in a pulsating encounter, but the Catalans had no mercy at home and cruised to a 4-1 victory. The following season, the Gunners went one better and won the match at home 2-1, but history repeated itself at Camp Nou as Barca secured a 3-1 triumph in a controversial clash when Robin van Persie was sent off when the score was still tied.
|HOME COMFORT | How Barca have reacted after negative results
| BARCELONA 5-2 LYON
2008-09 Round of 16 - First Leg: Lyon 1-1 Barcelona
|A goal from Thierry Henry on 67 minutes gave Barca a hard-fought draw at Lyon in a match in which the French champions had taken the lead after seven minutes through Juninho. The return leg was one-way traffic for the Blaugrana. Pep Guardiola's side were up 4-1 at the break and in the end, they qualified for the quarter-finals without breaking a sweat.|
| BARCELONA 4-0 STUTTGART
2009-10 Round of 16 - First Leg: Stuttgart 1-1 Barcelona
|Once again, Barcelona found themselves on the back foot, when Cacau put the Germans ahead with a powerful header in the 25th minute. Zlatan Ibrahimovic levelled on 52 minutes after combining well with Gerard Pique. At Camp Nou, the Blaugrana swept aside Stuttgart thanks to the majestic Messi, who scored two goals and also grabbed one assist before Bojan Krkic made it 4-0.|
BARCELONA 4-1 ARSENAL
2009-10 Quarter-finals - First Leg: Arsenal 2-2 Barcelona
|After a an hour of complete control in which Barca secured a two-goal lead thanks to Ibrahimovic, Arsenal responded and restored parity thanks to a Cesc Fabregas penalty five minutes before the end. The return leg is still remembered by football fans as one of the best displays in Messi's career as the Argentine grabbed four goals to sink the Gunners.|
BARCELONA 1-0 INTER
2009-10 Semi-finals - First Leg: Inter 3-1 Barcelona
|Guardiola's Barca have rarely been defeated in the way that they were against Inter in Milan. The Nerazzurri convincingly won the first leg thanks to goals from Wesley Sneijder, Maicon and Diego Milito. In the return leg, the Catalans laid siege on Inter's goal, but Mourinho's men held on to their advantage, even with 10 men. Pique's goal was not enough to turn the tie around.|
| BARCELONA 3-1 ARSENAL
2010-11 Round of 16 - First Leg: Arsenal 2-1 Barcelona
|Despite being anonymous during the first half, Arsenal found the strength to defeat Barca at the Emirates, thanks to a great display by Jack Wilshere. The return leg was filled with controversy: Robin van Persie's sending off when the score was 1-1 opened the door for the Catalans, who killed off the contest with goals from Xavi and Messi.|
Wenger's men are not the only ones who have been eliminated by Barca after a disappointing trip to Camp Nou. Stuttgart and Olympique Lyonnais also suffered the same fate despite securing favourable first-leg results at home. Only Inter were able to leave Catalunya with their heads held high, in the 2009-10 Champions League semi finals, but even then they lost 1-0, just enough to get them through after a 3-1 victory at San Siro in the first leg. The result was described by then-Inter coach Jose Mourinho as the "sweetest defeat of his career".
On five occasions in the knockout phase, Guardiola's Barca have played the return leg at Camp Nou after losing or drawing the opening match away from home. And in each and every case, the Catalans have come out victorious.
Chelsea's 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge will not be a guarantee for Di Matteo's men to progress. In the past, other teams believed they contained the upper hand over Barca, only to suffer the consequences of a daunting trip to the imposing Camp Nou. And the Blues could be their next victim.
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