Barcelona crash out of Champions League with loss to Bayern, head to Europa League for first time in 17 years

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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 did not 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 have not 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 is not 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 do not 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 did not 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 was not 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.

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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 do not 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 differential goal 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:

  • PSG
  • Atletico Madrid
  • Sporting Lisbon
  • Inter Milan
  • Villarreal / Atalanta
  • RB Salzburg
  • Chelsea

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.

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