Not this time, Barcelona!
That was the emphatic message Juventus sent to the Spanish giants after dumping them out of the Champions League picture on Thursday.
Juve, the Italian champions, barged into the semifinals on the strength of a 3-0 aggregate win. And Barca are done, unable to produce another miracle.
Prior to the match at Camp Nou, Barca hoped to do the unbelievable, the same one they had when they overturned a 0-4 deficit against Paris Saint Germain in the last-16 for the biggest fightback in the history of the tournament.
But Juve came in more than ready to foil another sensational comeback. And they made it sure right in front of the Catalan side’s rabid fans, many in tears and wondering what happened to their team after the debacle.
The Italians pummelled Luis Enrique’s side 3-0 in the first leg, with forward Paulo Dybala converting a double.
Barca trooped into their sprawling home ground with confidence soaring, but they were simply issued the denial as Juve proved simply too hard to crack at the back.
The second leg ended in scoreless draw, with Juve thwarting and frustrating Barca from finding the back of the net all-match long.
Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini, who form the formidable “BBC’’ trio along with Andrea Barzagli, stood solidly at the backline to underscore Juventus’ defence that proved as hard as the Rock of Gibraltar.
They were the main reasons why Barca’s dreaded “MSN’’ troika of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar were neutralised, and why the Spaniards exited without scoring in two legs.
Messi, who had earlier been stopped by veteran Juve goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, shot over the bar in one of their chances, while Suarez and Neymar were also denied on a night the Catalans were confined to just one shot on target.
Juve’s Gonzalo Higuain had a tame shot at Barca shot-stopper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, and winger Juan Cuadrado flubbed another chance near the end. At the final whistle, the Italians celebrated wildly as their travelling fans.
Beaten by Barca in the 2015 final, Juve have now made it to the semifinals in two of the last three years as they attempt to win a first European crown since 1996.
Thus, Massimiliano Allegri’s men joined holders Real Madrid and another Spanish side Atletico Madrid to the Final 4, with Monaco completing the cast after downing Borussia Dortmund 3-1 for a 6-3 aggregate win.
With Barca out, can Real Madrid retain the crown? Or can Juve, Atletico or Monaco steal the thunder this year?