Champions League Tips: Making the case for...Barcelona
General opinion is that Barca are out of form but Jason Pettigrove disagrees and makes a case for the Blaugrana winning another Champions League trophy
Last chance saloon
Let's address the elephant in the room first of all. Barca have been poor in a lot of games this season and certainly haven't looked like the team of old in some matches.
However, in what's supposedly been their worst league season in well over a decade, they still had the title in their own hands up until a few games from the end of the campaign.
They've been brilliant in Europe and with the potential of a trophy-less season ahead of them, that's all the motivation the team should need to go all out in each game and ensure a victory.
They can win it despite Quique Setien and not because of him, as it's clear the coach and club are not suited.
Lionel Messi's broadside at the end of the Osasuna defeat said everything, and his anger, which rarely boils ever to that extent, is another motivating factor for his team-mates.
Napoli will provide a reasonable enough test, but home advantage - fans or no fans - will be crucial.
Playing for places
With the disappointment of the league campaign fresh in their minds, a number of the first-team players won't need telling that their places are under threat if the Blaugranes fail to add a sixth Champions League to their trophy cabinet.
With the possible exception of Leo Messi, Luis Suarez, Sergio Busquets, Gerard Pique and Marc-Andre ter Stegen - effectively the spine of the team - everyone else can be considered a saleable asset.
And there's nothing like the notion of spending time on the subs bench or worse to help bring the best out of a player.
Ousmane Dembele has been out of action since early February, but is well on course for a return before Barca face Napoli in early August.
The Frenchman is training hard and will be a huge asset for Quique Setien in what are now the most important games for the club this season.
He'll be fresher than most too, which gives him a real edge in the one-on-one's that he's bound to encounter.
The quality throughout the squad must be used to its fullest capability by Setien with no experiments at this stage, and any team that has Messi in it still stands a chance.
With the possible exception of Atletico Madrid, every other club still left in the competition wants to play on the front foot, and that's where Barca can benefit.
In a one game scenario, particularly if they can get their noses in front, Messi will conduct the Blaugrana orchestra to perfection.
When the going gets tough, he always gets going, and even in what's alleged to have been a disappointing campaign for him personally, he's still managed to secure a record-breaking seventh Pichichi top-scorer trophy and also become the first La Liga player in history to both assist and score at least 20 times in the same season.
Furthermore, they've not lost in this season's Champions League despite some tough assignments, and lost just three times in the league dating back to early November.
A supposed lack of form is a myth.
In any other year, draws away at Sevilla and Celta Vigo, as well as at home to Atletico Madrid, would be seen as perfectly acceptable results.
Fifth favourites to win the tournament outright
At the time of writing, Barca are a ridiculous price of 10.50 to be the Champions League Winner, being fifth favourites behind Manchester City 4.50, Bayern Munich 4.70, Paris Saint-Germain 6.00 and Atletico Madrid 9.80. That will almost certainly be revised once Barca make the last eight.
Not being one of the favourites, despite their obvious pedigree in the competition, will play right into the Catalans' hands.
With the depth of experience that they have in the squad, as well as the ghosts of Liverpool and Roma to bury, you write them off at your peril.