2:45 P.M. EST
Ask any casual soccer fan to name the best club in the world and few -- provided this conversation is taking place outside of Madrid -- will hesitate to respond, "Barcelona."
Led by the world's most captivating and relentless talent, Lionel Messi, the Catalan titans of La Liga have dominated domestic and international competitions seemingly for years. So, why does this opening match against Bayer Leverkusen in the Round of 16 in the Champions League matter so much?
For starters, Barca find themselves 10 points adrift of Real Madrid in La Liga and in very real danger of losing their grasp on the domestic title. Barring a collapse by Los Blancos in Spain, Barcelona will need to win the Champions League to retain its reputation as the world's best club.
On Tuesday, Pep Guardiola's team will face a soggy pitch and stalwart Bayer Leverkusen intent on putting the clamps on the intricate interplay that is Barcelona's signature. Can they do it? Will former Germany captain Michael Ballack rise to the occasion with all the world watching?
WATCH BELOW FOR ALL GOALS AND GAME COMMENTARY
02/14/2012 4:41 PM EST
@ GoalUK :
Game. Set and Match. What on earth do you do if you're Bayer Leverkusen? They're 3-1 down and STILL have to go to the Nou Camp...
02/14/2012 4:36 PM EST
Having controlled the ball from the outset, Barcelona have taken a 3-1 lead over Leverkusen following the first leg in Germany. Lever showed a better accounting of themselves in the second half but their greater aggression certainly helped open opportunities for the visitors.
02/14/2012 4:34 PM EST
The flag brings an end to this Lever push. Obviously, a late "garbage time" goal here is huge given the format of the competition. They'll truly push to the whistle.
02/14/2012 4:33 PM EST
That's two changes in short order as Lever seeks to burn up this extra time before Barcelona could score a fourth and eliminate any chance of a comeback in the return bout at Camp Nou.
02/14/2012 4:30 PM EST
The movement begins with Messi shrugging off a very physical challenge. He finds Alves, who shows selflessness by holding up the ball on the break out wide. Rather than shooting he waits for Messi to charge into the box. Alves slides a cross across and Messi pokes it home.
02/14/2012 4:29 PM EST
He goes in late against Friedrich for a header. With the much taller player having the ball, Thiago goes directly to the body.
02/14/2012 4:28 PM EST
Will It Matter?
@ WilliamBourque :
Barcelona should be ahead 3-1 right now, Leno just made a spectacular save. Doesn't look good for me.
02/14/2012 4:27 PM EST
Sanchez off the field while sitting on two goals. Cuenca trots out.
02/14/2012 4:26 PM EST
WHAT A SAVE!
Leno reacts to a point blank header by Sanchez and palms it away. If Lever can can come back in this game then that will have been the key play. What a reaction!
02/14/2012 4:24 PM EST
50/50 Not Equal
Barca gets benefit of another call. This time Kiessling and Mascherano both went shoulder to shoulder. Barca ball. Bad call. The Lever striker is angry, rightfully so.