Barcelona crash out of Champions League with loss to Bayern, head to Europa League for first time in 17 years
Barcelona failed to finish in the top two of a Champions League group stage for the first time since 2000
For the first time in 20 years, FC Barcelona have failed to make it out of the Champions League group stage, being bounced from the competition by mighty Bayern Munich on Wednesday in a 3-0 defeat on Wednesday in Matchday 6. With Benfica beating Dynamo Kiev, Barcelona needed to go to Munich at get a win against a team that has thoroughly demolished them over the last few seasons, and they didn't even come close to competing. Bayern led 2-0 at the break, and the 3-0 score was generous all things considered as Bayern dominated both the ball and the chances.
Thomas Muller scored the winning strike in the 34th minute on a goal-line-technology-confirmed goal before Leroy Sane produced a wonder strike from 30 yards out just prior to the break. Jamal Musiala made it 3-0 after the hour mark, slamming the door shut on any unlikely comeback the Spanish team had in mind.
The victory meant nothing to Bayern as they had already locked up first place in Group E, while Benfica qualified for the knockout stage as the runners-up. Barca will continue their European journey in the Europa League, a competition they haven't participated in since 2004 when it was called the UEFA Cup.
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Here are three takeaways:
1. This is a Barca in transition and Xavi isn't to blame
This was Xavi's second UCL game in charge as the boss of Barca, and he isn't to blame. The months of atrocious planning and play with Ronald Koeman at the helm has led to this. While Barca have the name, they obviously don't have the game. This is a club in full rebuild mode looking to reach some level of competence since Lionel Messi's departure. This was not the desired result, obviously, but it does present them another route to quality for the UCL. That, of course, would require them to win the Europa League, and at this rate, they won't get out of the round of 32. But there is always a chance.
It's true the team was stuck in first gear, registering an xG of just 0.38 on seven shots. But fans must be patient, because Xavi hasn't had the opportunity to make the mark on the club that he wants. He hasn't gotten a transfer window, he hasn't had enough time to implement his strategy, and there are going to be more growing pains along the way.
This team is light-years behind the Barcelona sides of old, but patience is needed.
2. Bayern didn't step on break, they stomped on the pedal
I entered the day thinking Barca might have a shot if Julian Nagelsmann decided to rest his big guns and play a bunch of backups. Bayern wanted to punish Barca, and Robert Lewandowski, Leroy Sane and Thomas Muller were in the starting XI. It wasn't a full-strength side, but it was one with a couple back-ups mixed in that still looked ages ahead of their opponent. And from the first whistle, there was absolutely zero chance for Barca to get a draw, let alone a victory.
And that is the difference between the clubs right now when it comes to their mentality. Barca are fragile, soft and in need of proper leadership and guidance to build it back up, which they hope Joan Laporta can do. Bayern. meanwhile, are ruthless, out to destroy and don't care who is at their end of powerful punishment on the pitch.
3. Bayern look like favorites to win UCL
Ahead of Manchester City, Liverpool and PSG, Bayern Munich have solidified themselves as the clear favorites to win this competition, which would be their second European crown in the last three seasons if they pull it off. There is incredible depth everywhere, they have the best pure striker in the game in Lewandowski, and they epitomize consistency, having a goal differential of +19, far better than any other team in the competition.
But for now, we have to see on Monday how their path looks with the draw.
While finishing first is exactly what they wanted, they have the potential to be drawn against the following teams in the round of 16:
- Atletico Madrid
- Sporting Lisbon
- Inter Milan
- RB Salzburg
They'll be the favorite in each, but they will want to avoid PSG, Atletico and Chelsea, with RB Salzburg and Sprting Lisbon likely being their preferred opponents.
That's it! Barca out! A 3-0 win to Bayern.
Barca are out of the UCL, failing to make the round of 16 for the first time in two decades. Bayern, meanwhile, have already won the group and continue their utter domination of the Catalan club.
3-0 to Bayern!
There it is! Musiala makes it 3-0 with a finish from close. Davies does so well down the left, cuts up Araujo and places the ball diagonally to the corner of the six, where the young talent finishes into the far side.
Oh goodness. Bayern had the third right there, and Sane just missed a wide open goal at the far post! He just miss-hit it, giving it to Ter Stegen, who was on the ground. Harder to miss than make! Likely won't matter in the end, but he won't want to see a replay of that.
The second half is underway in Germany as Bayern look to finish off Barca. The visitors have to go for the miracle, but I'm not going to lie, I don't think they have the ability. It is going to take a couple grave errors from Bayern to have a chance.
It's Bayern 2, Barcelona 0 are the break. Just one shot on goal for Barca as the hosts have dominated from the start. Barca need a miracle now and look destined for UCL elimination. Bayern have simply been too good, going with their starters and continuing their domination of the Catalan club.