A silver lining in Barcelona's Champions League exit after defeat to Bayern Munich?

A silver lining in Barcelona’s Champions League exit after defeat to Bayern Munich?

Bayern Munich beat Barcelona 3-0 at Camp Nou on Wednesday night to qualify for the Champions League knockout stages as group winners.

Xavi Hernandez’s side entered the match knowing they already had no chance of reaching the knockout stages for the second straight year after Internazionale beat Viktoria Plzen 4-0 in the first window Monday.

First-half goals from Sadio Mane and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and a stoppage-time header from Benjamin Pavard saw Bayern clinch top spot in Group C on 15 points with one game to play, while Inter Milan finished second. Barcelona, ​​who will finish third regardless of final day results, are heading to the Europa League.

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Wednesday’s results are another setback for the Catalan club and could prove more costly than last season as the team went on a spending spree this summer to strengthen their squad in hopes of recouping some of that silver with a deep run in European competition.

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Quick reaction

1. Barcelona playing flat after sealed Champions League exit

With Inter Milan’s win over Viktoria Plzen earlier on Wednesday, Barcelona knew their Champions League hopes were over for another season and they played like a grieving side at times against Bayern. Despite Xavi Hernandez’s insistence before the match that it was a chance to show Barca could compete on the biggest stage, they once again failed to come up against one of the world’s best. Europe, as was the case recently. Classic loss to Real Madrid.

Barca will and have lamented the missed chances in Munich, the refereeing decisions in Milan and the individual errors in the 3-3 draw with Inter, but the fact is they weren’t good enough in their five matches in the Champions League season. That they only have four points is a reflection of this.

You can’t defend like they did against Bayern. The ease with which Sadio Mane and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting found the net will have irritated Xavi. It felt like Bayern could have shifted a few extra gears as well. Only a final block from Hector Bellerin and a fine save from Marc-André ter Stegen prevented a third before the break. Serge Gnabry, the creator of the three goals, had another ruled out for offside before an unmarked Benjamin Pavard added the third from set play.

Barca, meanwhile, despite all their passes, huffing and puffing, never really tested Bayern substitute goalkeeper Sven Ulreich. The closest to a goal was a penalty canceled for a Matthijs de Ligt challenge against Robert Lewandowski, who was again forced to endure a painful night against the team he left for 45 million euros in the summer. .

2. Focus on winning the Europa League, LaLiga for Barcelona

Barca invested over €150m in the squad this summer after selling the club’s assets in a bid to reach the final stages of the Champions League. Now that that’s no longer possible, how do they regroup from here?

The main focus now becomes LaLiga. They started well, despite that loss to Madrid, and are just three points off the top after 11 games and just one defeat. With a much-improved squad, the league’s top scorer in Lewandowski and a new generation of young talent, led by Pedri and Gavi, they are set to move closer to Carlo Ancelotti’s side.

However, they are definitely not favorites at the moment and Xavi even said that if he doesn’t win a trophy this season he knows he could be replaced. That leaves the Europa League, where they will be favourites, although they know the perils of Europe’s secondary competition after unexpectedly falling to Eintracht Frankfurt in the quarter-finals last season. Then there is the Copa del Rey and the Spanish Supercopa. It’s not what they were dreaming of this summer when they unveiled Lewandowski, Raphinha and Jules Kounde, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement from last season’s trophyless campaign.

There seems to be some patience from the supporters. Having club legend Xavi as the figurehead of the project helps and an average attendance of over 80,000 at Camp Nou this season shows there is a connection. There were 84,016 for Bayern’s loss and those who stuck it out didn’t stop signing.

3. Bayern Munich show why they are a benchmark

Bayern is one of the benchmarks where Xavi wants to take his team to Barca. It is also the team that Barça must want to face the most. It was their sixth straight win against the Catalans, a run that dates back to 2015 and includes an 8-2 and three 3-0s, and their 11th in 15 official encounters.

Their performance at Camp Nou was as professional as it gets. With their place in the last 16 already secured, they still played like there was something in the game as they finished top spot ahead of their final home game against Inter, where they will be looking to make six wins out of six. of what some have described as the toughest group in the competition.

The win was all the more impressive as they were without Manuel Neuer, Lucas Hernandez and Leroy Sane through injury, while Thomas Muller was only deemed fit for a second-half cameo. Yet, with the likes of Mane, Gnabry and Jamal Musiala, they remain one of the teams to be feared in Europe, even though Union Berlin are still keeping them outside the top of the Bundesliga for now.

Player ratings

Barcelona: Ter Stegen 6; Bellerin 4, Koundé 5, Alonso 5, Baldé 6; Busquets 6, De Jong 6, Kessie 5, Pedri 6; Dembele 6, Lewandowski 6
Subtitles: Raphinha 5, Torres 5, Garcia 5, Ansu 5, Torre 5

Bayern Munich: Ulrich 6; Mazraoui 7, Upamecano 6, de Ligt 7, Davies 6; Kimmich 7, Goretza 6; Gnabry 9, Musiala 8, Mane 8; Choupo-Moting 7
Subtitles: Sabitzer 6, Muller 6, Pavard 6, Gravenberch 6, Stanisic 5

Best and Worst Performers

BEST: Serge Gnabry, Bayern Munich.

Created Bayern’s first two goals brilliantly and only minimal offside prevented him from adding a third in the second half. Complete a late assist hat trick.

WORST: Hector Bellerin, Barcelona.

Given the difficult task of scoring Mane on his first start since September 10 after returning from injury. I lost it for the first goal, then I played Choupo-Moting for the second. Made a big block later in the first half and never gave up but it was a tough night for the former Arsenal man.

Highlights and Moments

Oh Mane, Mane. Took wind of an already subdued Camp Nou crowd with his debut goal.

Before kick-off, a tweet from Inter Milan will definitely not include Barcelona.

But at least the Catalans are getting a warm welcome in Europe.

After the game: What managers, players said

Barcelona’s Xavi Hernandez after the game: “We weren’t at Bayern’s level today. They were better. In Munich we were ourselves, but today they were better, intense. The elimination before the match affected us psychologically. Now , we’re training again tomorrow and thinking about La Liga. There was a lot of expectation but we had a tough group. All kinds of things happened to us in the group stage. It was cruel to us, but we didn’t. didn’t compete well today.

Barcelona’s Marc-Andre ter Stegen on the result:Disappointment. We didn’t lose it today but the moment in general right now is painful. One of the goals was to stay in the Champions League. Now we have to focus on what awaits us in La Liga.

Obviously, knowing that we were already out had an influence. It was a strange feeling. It was more a matter of pride, but we couldn’t match Bayern tonight. They scored goals at key moments and we couldn’t compete.”

Barcelona’s Pedri on knowing fate ahead of time: “You don’t come into the game with the same motivation [after the Inter win]. We wanted to give the fans a win, but that was not the case. We owe a lot to these supporters. They have always been with us. We owe them victories and trophies. I hope we can give them to them from now on.

We are a young team with a lot of room for improvement. We have to improve a lot. We are not there yet to compete in the Champions League. It’s really disappointing what happened today. Looking at what we’ve seen, it’s clear we’re not ready to compete yet. [at the top level].”

Key stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)

– After 17 consecutive seasons of reaching the knockout stages of the Champions League, Barcelona are set to miss consecutive seasons for the first time since the 1997-98 and 1998-99 campaigns.

– Take care, cules. Barcelona are already the favorites to win the UEFA Europa League with a 27% chance, according to FivethirtyEight’s SPI.

– Bayern have won six matches in a row against Barcelona, ​​matching them with Espanyol’s streak of 1940-42. The longest winning streak against Barcelona was Real Madrid’s seven-game streak from 1962 to 1965.

– Overall a disappointing Champions League from LaLiga clubs. With Real Madrid advancing but Sevilla and Atletico Madrid also failing to reach the knockout stages, it will be the first time since 1998-99 that Spain have not had multiple teams in the knockout stage. That year, only eight teams qualified for the knockout stage, with Real also being the sole representative.


Barcelona: Return to La Liga action against a rising Valencia side on Saturday. After that, a Tuesday trip to Viktoria Plzen in hopes of ending a disappointing Champions League campaign on a high note.

Bayern Munich: The next step will be a Bundesliga game on Saturday with Mainz. Then they will aim to maintain their Champions League group stage record with the final game of the round against Inter Milan on Tuesday.

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