Barcelona face not just a Champions League elimination against Atletico Madrid tonight, but the possibility of replicating their capitulation two seasons ago, which saw them turn from treble contenders to a club without silverware. This might seem like a very bold statement considering the Catalan giants have already booked a place in the Copa del Rey final and still lead La Liga with just five games to go. However, the traditional weakness of mentality that haunts the Cules, as opposed to the strong character often associated with Real Madrid, suggests this disaster could happen again if they are knocked out from the European competition tonight.
Atletico have certainly broken the Spanish giants' duopoly in recent years thanks to the tenacity and winning spirit of Diego Simeone. However, the rivalry between Barcelona and Real Madrid remains paramount. Barcelona as we know them could not exist without their arch-enemies, and vice versa, due to the inextricable relationship between both clubs. The sadness of one is joy for the other.
That story of jealousy and friction invites odious comparisons between everything that happens at the Nou Camp and the Santiago Bernabeu. The tale still paints the Catalan players and fans as a group that collapses at the very first setback, and Los Merengues' as able to recover from the hardest of setbacks sand believe they are the favourites in a Champions League tie despite having lost 2-0 in the first leg.
Any sane person would rather face the second leg of a tie with a 2-1 advantage than a 2-0 deficit. But no Real Madrid players, or their fans, considered the possibility of being knocked out by Wolfsburg in the preview of the European encounter.
Meanwhile Barcelona's entourage feared the worst despite the odds, but having Lionel Messi and co, plus a run of seven wins out of seven against Atletico Madrid since Luis Enrique took over, suggests that they are all but favourites to go through.
Real Madrid prepared for the 3-0 comeback against Wolfsburg by remembering all the glorious days past at the Bernabeu. They had not overcome a two-goal deficit to make the semi-finals for 29 years, but rather than focus on the negative they recalled the glory days of the 70s and 80s when the club secured historic comebacks against the likes of Derby County, Celitc, Borussia Monchengladbach, Anderlecht and Inter Milan.
As current treble winners, Barcelona, prefer to think of a worst-case scenario to cushion a hypothetical fall. The Cules don't think just that today they could say goodbye to the Champions League but in the domino effect following their La Liga and Copa del Rey hopes.
The Catalans, in opposition to Real Madrid, don't need to go back further to those days in the 1970s or 1980s previous to Johan Cruyff when their Champions League trophy cabinet was empty but only two seasons ago to see their short-term future in the black.
Back then, Gerardo Martino's side arrived to the 1 April in contention to win everything, second in La Liga, with a Copa del Rey final place booked and having qualified to the Champions League quarter-final following a comfortable tie victory over Manchester City.
Yet nine days after that, they waved goodbye to Europe after being knocked out by Atletico Madrid in the quarter-final (1-1 at home and 1-0 defeat away). It was then 16 days later that they lost the Copa del Rey final to Real Madrid and subsequently gave away La Liga title to Atletico Madrid after being unable to beat Simeone's warriors in the last decisive game played at Nou Camp – to end the domestic competition with just two victories in the last six games of the campaign was woeful.
Luis Enrique's pupils arrived the 1 April this season in line to become the first club in the history to secure back-to-back trebles, leading La Liga 10 points ahead of Real Madrid and nine over Atletico Madrid, with a Copa del Rey place in the final, and having thrashed Arsenal to make the Champions League quarter-final.
Yet barely 12 days after that, they have seen their leadership in La Liga cut to three points after consecutive defeats in El Clasico and to Real Sociedad and are risking a Champions League exclusion having struggled to achieve a 2-1 victory against 10-man Atletico Madrid at home. The fear factor is back at the Nou Camp even more now following Real Madrid's comeback against Wolfsburg.
Failing to be in the Champions League semi-final is a massive blow, failing to do it when their nemesis has already booked a place among the European top four is the very worst of the Catalans' nightmares.