FC Bayern Munich beat Barcelona 3-0 at the Camp Nou on Wednesday evening and qualified as group winners for the round of 16 of the Champions League.
Xavi Hernandez’s side went into the game knowing they were without a chance to reach the knockout stages for the second straight year after Internazionale defeated Viktoria Plzen 4-0 in Monday’s early window .
Goals from Sadio Mane and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting in the first half, along with Benjamin Pavard’s header in added time, meant Bayern finished first in Group C with a game to go on 15 points, while Inter Milan were second became. Barcelona, third regardless of the results of the last matchday, are heading towards 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 summer spending spree to strengthen their squad, hoping to snag some of that money with a deep Winning back run in European competition.
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1. Barcelona are flat after their Champions League exit is sealed
With Inter Milan’s win over Viktoria Pilsen on Wednesday, Barcelona knew their Champions League hopes were over for another season and they sometimes played like a team in grief against Bayern. Although Xavi Hernandez insisted before the game that this was a chance to show Barca can compete on the biggest stage, they once again failed to deliver against one of Europe’s best players as they have recently classic Loss to Real Madrid.
Barca will and have lamented missed chances in Munich, refereeing decisions in Milan and individual errors in the 3-3 draw with Inter, but the fact is that they haven’t been good enough in their five Champions League games. That they only have four points reflects that.
You can’t defend like you did against Bayern. The ease with which Sadio Mane and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting found the net will have upset Xavi. It felt as if Bayern could have shifted up a few gears. Only a final block from Hector Bellerin and a fine save from Marc-Andre ter Stegen held off a third before the break. Serge Gnabry, the creator of all three goals, had to rule out another for offside before an unmarked Benjamin Pavard added the third after an injury-time set piece.
Barca, on the other hand, have never really put Bayern’s backup goalkeeper Sven Ulreich to the test, for all his passing, huffing and puffing. The closest they came to scoring was a missed penalty after Matthijs de Ligt tackled Robert Lewandowski, who endured another painful night against the side he left for €45m in the summer.
2. Focus on winning Europa League, LaLiga for Barcelona
Barca invested over €150m in the squad in the summer after selling club assets to reach the final stages of the Champions League. Not being able to do that now, how do they regroup from here?
The main focus is now on LaLiga. They’ve gotten off to a good start despite losing 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 burgeoning bevy of young talent led by Pedri and Gavi, they should tightly lead Carlo Ancelotti’s side.
However, they are certainly not favorites at the moment and Xavi has even said he knows he could be replaced if he doesn’t win a trophy this season. That leaves the Europa League, in which they are seen as favourites, although they know the dangers when the European second division side unexpectedly lost to Eintracht Frankfurt in last season’s quarter-finals. Then there is the Copa del Rey and the Spanish Supercopa. It’s not what they dreamed of over the summer when they introduced Lewandowski, Raphinha and Jules Kounde, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement from last season’s trophy-less season.
There seems to be some patience on the part of backers. Having club legend Xavi as the project’s figurehead helps and an average attendance of over 80,000 at the Camp Nou this season shows there is a connection. Bayern had 84,016 to lose and those who stayed to the end didn’t stop signing.
3. FC Bayern Munich shows why it is a benchmark
Bayern are one of the benchmarks for where Xavi wants to take his Barca side. They are also the team Barca have to be fed up with the most. This was their sixth consecutive win against the Catalans, a streak dating back to 2015 and including an 8-2 and three 3-0s, and their 11th in 15 official encounters.
Their performance at the Camp Nou was as professional as it gets. With their place in the last 16 already secured, they still played as if something was at stake as they finished top ahead of their last home game against Inter, where they will be looking to go for six wins from six what some consider to be the toughest group in the competition.
That win was all the more impressive considering they were without Manuel Neuer, Lucas Hernandez and Leroy Sane through injury, while Thomas Muller was only deemed fit for a second-half cameo. Nevertheless, with talents like Mane, Gnabry and Jamal Musiala, they are one of the most feared teams in Europe, even if Union Berlin is keeping them away from the top of the Bundesliga for the time being.
Barcelona: Ter Stegen 6; Bellerin 4, Kound 5, Alonso 5, Balde 6; 6 Busquets, 6 De Jong, 5 Kessie, 6 Pedri; Dembele 6, Lewandowski 6
Subtitle: 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, Goretzka 6; Gnabry 9, Musiala 8, Mane 8; Choupo-Moting 7
Subtitle: Sabitzer 6, Müller 6, Pavard 6, Gravenberch 6, Stanisic 5
Best and worst performers
BEST: Serge Gnabry, Bayern Munich.
He set up Bayern’s first two goals brilliantly and only a minor offside prevented him from adding a third in the second half. Complete a hat trick of assists late.
WORST: Hector Bellerin, Barcelona.
Given the difficult task of tagging Mane in his first start since September 10 after returning from injury. Lost him for the first goal and then played Choupo-Moting for the second down the side. Made a great block later in the first half and never gave up but it was a difficult night for the former Arsenal man.
Highlights and notable moments
Oh mane, mane. Took the wind out of the already subdued crowd at the Camp Nou with his early goal.
SADIO MANE BRINGS BACK THE CAMP NOU! 🤫 pic.twitter.com/tca0VMMI7A
— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) October 26, 2022
A tweet from Inter Milan ahead of kick-off will certainly not include Barcelona.
RETWEET IF YOUR CLUB QUALIFIED FOR THIS #UCL Round of 16 😁
— Inter (@Inter_en) October 26, 2022
But at least the Catalans get a warm welcome from Europe.
Welcome back @FCBarcelona 🤗
— UEFA Europa League 🕙 (@Differential_PL) October 26, 2022
After the game: what the managers, players said
Barcelona’s Xavi Hernandez after the game: “We weren’t at Bayern’s level today. you were better In Munich we were ourselves, but today they were better, more intense. Being eliminated before the game hit us mentally. Now we train again tomorrow thinking about LaLiga expectations but we have a tough group. All sorts of things happened to us in the group stage. It was cruel for us but we didn’t play well today.”
Barcelona’s Marc-Andre ter Stegen on the result: “Disappointment. We didn’t lose it today, but the moment in the moment in general is painful. One of the goals was to remain in the Champions League. Now we have to focus on what’s to come in LaLiga.
Obviously knowing we were already outside had an impact. It was a strange feeling. It was more of a Pride theme, but we couldn’t keep up with Bayern tonight. They scored goals at key moments and we couldn’t keep up.”
Barcelona’s Pedri on knowing fate beforehand: “You don’t go into the game with the same motivation [after the Inter win]. We wanted to give the fans a win, but it wasn’t to be. We owe a lot to these supporters. You were always with us. We owe them victories and trophies. I hope we can give them to you from now on.
We are a young team with a lot of room for improvement. We need to improve a lot. We’re not there yet to compete in the Champions League. It’s really disappointing what happened today. When we see 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 in which he has reached the knockout rounds of the Champions League, Barcelona will miss consecutive seasons for the first time since the 1997-98 and 1998-99 seasons.
– Look out, collect. According to FivethirtyEight’s SPI, Barcelona are already favorites to win the UEFA Europa League with a 27% chance.
– Bayern have won six games in a row against Barcelona, which ties them to Espanyol’s winning streak from 1940-42. The longest winning streak against Barcelona was Real Madrid’s seven-game streak from 1962 to 1965.
– Overall, a disappointing Champions League performance from LaLiga clubs. With Real Madrid progressing but Sevilla and Atletico Madrid also failing to reach the round of 16, this is the first time since 1998/99 that Spain have not featured multiple teams in the knockout stages. Only eight teams made it to the knockout stages that year, with Real also being the only representative.
Barcelona: Back to La Liga action against a burgeoning Valencia squad on Saturday. After that, a Tuesday trip to Viktoria Pilsen in hopes of ending a disappointing Champions League campaign on a high note.
Bayern Munich: Next up is a Bundesliga game against Mainz on Saturday. They then look to match their Champions League group stage record with the final game of the round against Inter Milan on Tuesday.
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