Barcelona won’t be playing in the Champions League knockout stage for the first time since 2004. Shocking, but nonetheless true.
The once invincible Barcelona juggernauts have failed to reach the knockout rounds of the Champions League for the first time in 18 years after another reality-call 3-0 loss to Bayern Munich consigned the Catalan club to elimination from European soccer’s premier competition.
Barcelona have been unceremoniously trundled out out of the Champions League into the way less auspicious Europa League after finishing third in Group E, due also to Benfica’s 2-0 win over Dynamo Kyiv in the other game on Wednesday night.
This brought to an abrupt end the Spanish giants’ campaign which would have been absolutely unthinkable in the club’s heyday with the likes of Lionel Messi up front and Pep Guardiola riding shotgun as coach from 2008 through 2012.
The group stage had begun with a 3-0 loss to Bayern at the Camp Nou and was further exacerbated with a subsequent 3-0 defeat and 0-0 draw against Portugal’s Benfica. In all, Barca scored only two goals in six games, both against last-place Dynamo, and conceded nine.
“We start a new era, from zero, from here, to work hard and to recover Barca and to put Barca in the place that we deserve, that is in the top of the Champions League,” coach Xavi told broadcaster DAZN.
“This is our reality. We are out of Champions League, we are in Europa League, but this is not the place of Barcelona.”
The five-time European champions last failed to make the last-16 in 2003-04. That season, Barcelona missed the Champions League entirely and played in what was then the UEFA Cup, thanks to a poor Spanish league finish the season before.
From another even more sobering standpoint, defeat in Munich will further deepen Barcelona’s already overwhelming financial problems as they will now miss out on lucrative prize money and commercial exposure for sponsors. Besides that, sitting seventh domestically means they may not even qualify for next year’s competition, which would turn their skies an even darker hue of black, if that’s even possible.
“We need to work hard, many things that put Barcelona in this situation. But this is our reality. I cannot say anything else,” Xavi added.
“We need to win Europa League, work hard for recovering points in La Liga, win the cup, win the Super Cup, this is what Barcelona deserve … We will try to work hard. We have many injuries. Maybe we can sign some players now in January. Let’s see.”
Words of desperation spoken in frustration and anguish from someone who’s the most recent to jump on the Camp Nou bandwagon, one who had probably not realised the scary depths to which the Spanish giants had descended into, until now. Even his last words “Let’s see …” seemed to be laced with cynicism and unbelief at the reality of the situation that’s now only probably beginning to unravel its true horror to him.
Oh, how the proud have fallen.