Barcelona is synonymous with the Champions League. It’s hard to imagine an age where they did not compete in Europe’s elite club competition.
Most fans’ memories are Lionel Messi who scored five against Bayer Leverkusen, Andres Iniesta who broke Chelsea’s hearts or MSN who destroyed Juventus in the final in 2015. Some may even remember the triumph in 2006, if you can remember it long ago.
But nowadays things are not so simple.
Barça have one of their worst squads in recent times, losing the talismanic Messi to Paris Saint-Germain earlier this year, and they have almost no chance in this season’s La Liga title competition.
Their Champions League journey is also over.
Consecutive 3-0 losses to Bayern Munich and Benfica left them with a mountain to climb to qualify for the knockout stages. Back-to-back 1-0 victories over Dynamo Kiev gave them a shot in the arm, but the goalless draw against Benfica at Camp Nou meant that they needed to match Benfica’s results on the last match day.
If there is one place that Blaugrana would not want to visit that needs a good result, it is Bayern Munich.
Memories of the overall semi-final catastrophe of 7-0 2013 and the infamous 8-2 2020 defeat in Lisbon were fresh in the memory on Wednesday night, and as soon as Thomas Muller premiered, it seemed impossible to believe that visitors could turn the deficit around.
Instead, Leroy Sane got another before half time and Jamal Musiala rounded off to a 3-0 victory, which left Xavi bitter at the final whistle.
He admitted: “I’m angry. This is the reality and it pisses me off. We have to deal with that face on. There’s nothing else for it. A new era begins today. We start from scratch.”
One phase of the new era will be the Europa League, whether Barça fans like it or not. Funny enough, Xavi was part of their latest team that competed in the equivalent of that competition, it was the UEFA Cup, already in 2003/04.
It seems offensive that such as Ronaldinho, Carles Puyol, Xavi and Iniesta would be forced to play in something less than the Champions League, but due to a bad season 2002/03 when Louis van Gaal was fired after half time before a league. end of sixth, that’s exactly what would happen.
Europe’s smaller competitions have the ability to remove the embarrassment from top football clubs. Just ask Tottenham and Arsenal. That’s how it started for Barça in the first round, which was held by MSK Puchov with 1-1 in the first round. They conceded an equalizer in the 93rd minute to a Milan Jambor.
Head coach Frank Rijkaard said after the match: “We lost too many balls and the players were nervous and not smart enough to hit a good defense. It was better after the break, but a defensive blunder led to a draw. It is a bad result., We would not even have been happy with a 1-0 win. “
The second stage saw the difference in quality between the two sides a little clearer, Barcelona won 8-0 at night when Ronaldinho scored a hat trick.
Barcelona’s team was full of talent / Clive Mason / GettyImages
Panionios, who currently play in Greece’s third level, were sent off 5-0 over two matches in the second round, before two victories over Brondby in the third round secured an overall win of 3-1
Where the whole thing was to be torn up, however, was in the fourth round against Martin O’Neill’s Celtic.
The Catalan giants had a lot of chances to win in Glasgow, where both Ronaldinho and Javier Saviola missed golden opportunities to take the lead.
A hand-half at half-time saw a player from each team sent off when Thiago Motta and goalkeeper Rab Douglas were sent off, before Saviola got a straight red. Alan Thompson scored the only goal of the night and left the Scottish giants in the lead before the return match at Camp Nou.
A young David Marshall – who replaced Douglas in the first leg – ended up in the spotlight and it was the shots that turned out to be Barça’s villain. He made a number of impressive stops from the likes of Gerard Lopez, Luis Enrique, Ronaldinho and Sergio Garcia to ensure that the match ended 0-0.
Despite the amount of current and future world-class players they had in their ranks, Barça had been knocked out before the quarter-finals. Xavi in particular struggled to put a pattern on the game, messed up and rushed by Neil Lennon and Stiliyan Petrov.
The easiest way for Barcelona to qualify for next season’s Champions League is to win the Europa League! ? pic.twitter.com/OyE9G6VEc9
– 90 min (@ 90min_Football) December 8, 2021
Rijkaard was dizzy after the match and said: “This is a very sad moment for the club – the UEFA Cup is a trophy we really wanted to win. However, I am pleased that the team gave me everything they had. It takes two teams to make a good match and unfortunately Celtic came to impose their game and defend. “
Xavi may have been “pissed” at the way his team defeated Bayern Munich this year, but now he has to lead Barça when they make their first appearance in Europe’s secondary competition in 17 years.
If it’s not a sign of the state the club is currently in, who knows what it is.
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