Barcelona's German goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen has called on his team to use their experience to beat Manchester United on Tuesday. Barca are at risk of losing in the quarterfinals for the fourth successive time.
It's easily forgotten that Marc-Andre ter Stegen won the Champions League in his first season with Barcelona in 2015. Back then, he'd have been forgiven for thinking it would be the first of many European Cups to his name, the process being little more than routine at a club of Barcelona's stature. That may still turn out to be the case when he counts his winners' medals, but Ter Stegen hasn't been able to add to that tally just yet.
Since that balmy night at Berlin's Olympiastadion when goals from Ivan Rakitic, Luis Suarez and Neymar secured Barcelona their fifth Champions League title, Barcelona have lost three consecutive quarterfinals in the competition. Ter Stegen has been the No.1 for all of that time, even with Netherlands' keeper Jasper Cillessen keeping him on his toes.
Barcelona find themselves at the same stage again, this time with Manchester United looking to do what Atletico Madrid, Juventus and Roma have done in the past three seasons, and advance to the last four at Barcelona's expense. Ter Stegen faced the press at Barcelona's prematch press conference at Camp Nou on Monday, and it was put to him that perhaps United could overturn their 1-0 deficit to Barca in a similar way they did against PSG in the previous round.
"The good thing is we play differently to PSG," ter Stegen said with a wry smile.
Barcelona certainly have the Champions League pedigree that PSG lack, but recent evidence suggests the current crop are developing a mental block at this stage of the competition. Ter Stegen turns 27 before the end of the season and is now one of the team's more experienced heads. He says it's time to get the job done, and learn from the mistakes of the past.
"It's been hard," the former Borussia Mönchengladbach player said. "We are another year older and we want to make sure it doesn't happen again. We have to take those losses into account and use them to move forward."
Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde echoed this sentiment, urging his players to seize the moment.
"I think we all take examples of things happening in the past and use them to spur us on. That's fine, but I prefer to take charge of your own destiny. You won't be given something that falls from he sky. We have to earn it."
Ter Stegen is one player who can now appreciate that even at a club like Barcelona, nothing comes for free.