Barcelona are now a Europa League team
Barcelona suffered fresh embarrassment and probably hit rock bottom on Wednesday with another heavy Champions League defeat enough to condemn the Catalans to the Europa League.
It’s the first time since 2000/01 that Barca have failed to progress from the group stages and just the fourth time in the club’s history they’ve failed to make it out of the group.
An early Champions League exit is obviously a massive blow for the Catalans both from a footballing perspective and a financial one. Reports reckon Barca will lose around €20 million from being knocked out of Europe’s top competition after budgeting for a run to the quarter-finals.
Yet it’s no real surprise and Barca can’t have any complaints. They simply are not good enough currently to be in the last 16 and the defeat to Bayern highlighted once again the clear gulf between the two sides.
Goals scored by Barça in the #UCL group stage in the last decade:— The Spanish Football Podcast (@tsf_podcast) December 8, 2021
Xavi and Ronald Araujo both talked up the desire to go and win the Europa League after the defeat but there’s no guarantee Barca are even good enough to do that either as things stand.
Sevilla, Borussia Dortmund, Leipzig, and Porto have also joined Barca in Europe’s second-tier competition, and a vast improvement will be needed if Xavi is to get his hands on any silverware this season.
Alba injury adds to Xavi’s problems
Jordi Alba added to new coach Xavi’s problems by hobbling off in the first half with what looked like a hamstring problem. The defender was a doubt before the match but played anyway and now joins the club’s lengthy injury list.
Oscar Mingueza replaced Alba but looks far from the answer. The 22-year-old did well last season after coming into the team and playing in a variety of positions but has struggled in 2021-22 and looked out of his depth up against Kingsley Coman and Co.
Alba’s injury could offer Alejandro Balde the chance to try and impress the new coach. The teenager has made five appearances this season but hasn’t featured since the 3-3 draw with Celta Vigo.
Sergino Dest is another option and played at left-back earlier in the campaign under Ronald Koeman when Alba was out again. However, the USMNT star doesn’t look to have convinced Xavi of his qualities at all yet and was hooked after a poor first half against Bayern.
What’s happened to Ter Stegen?
Bayern’s second goal came from the boot of Leroy Sane but really ought to have been dealt with by goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen who won’t want to see replays of the goal again.
It wasn’t the only poor moment from the German either. A poor pass out in the opening minutes almost caused an early goal and forced Sergio Busquets to commit a foul and pick up a yellow card.
There has been growing scrutiny on Ter Stegen in recent months with the normally-reliable goalkeeper looking far from his imperious best in the Barcelona goal.
And there are lots of questions about why Ter Stegen has regressed too. Is it a lack of competition? Have his knee injuries had an impact? Has he been playing behind a shambolic defense for too long? Perhaps the most important question of all though is: Can he get back to his best?
Gavi in tears as Lenglet laughs
Wednesday’s defeat may not have been unexpected but it still hurts which is why the sight of Clement Lenglet laughing and joking with Robert Lewandowski after the final whistle will rile fans.
Lenglet is no longer guaranteed a start at Barca but did play the 90 minutes at the Allianz Arena. Yet his most notable moment might be the sight of the center-back sharing a hug and a laugh with the Bayern striker on the pitch after the final whistle
After another humbling defeat in Europe that sends Barca out of the Champions League, it really is not a good look.
It’s also in stark contrast to the reaction of 17-year-old Gavi when he was substituted late on against Bayern. The teenager was clearly devastated and looked to be in tears as he trudged off. He also gave the corner flag a whack for good measure on his way round the pitch.
We know exactly how you feel, Gavi.
Is this finally the start of a new era?
Xavi’s disappointment and frustration at going out of the Champions League early was evident after the game, but he also looked to the future and spoke about how it’s the start of a new era for the club.
Xavi strong: I'm angry. This is the reality and it pisses me off. We have to tackle it face on. There's nothing else for it. A new era starts today. We start from zero.— Samuel Marsden (@samuelmarsden) December 8, 2021
There’s no doubt it’s a long way back for Barca. The Catalans only scored twice in the group stages, only beat Dynamo Kiev, and finished with a measly seven points.
Barca have also lost five of their last nine Champions League outings and heavy defeats have, sadly, become a regular occurrence.
Tonight was Barcelona's 10th (!) UCL loss by 3 goals or more since February 2017. Overseen by 5 different coaches.— Colin Millar (@Millar_Colin) December 8, 2021
PSG 4-0 Barca
Juve 3-0 Barca
Roma 3-0 Barca
Liverpool 4-0 Barca
Bayern 8-2 Barca
Barca 0-3 Juve
Barca 1-4 PSG
Barca 0-3 Bayern
Benfica 3-0 Barca
Bayern 3-0 Barca
Yet Xavi does have plenty of young talent in the squad to work with. He also has plenty of players whose time at the club is up. The new coach needs to be ruthless going forward but he also has very little cash available to tweak his team in the January transfer window. Nobody said it would be easy.
If there are any positives to take from the defeat to Bayern it’s that Xavi seems well aware Barca have to start again from scratch. This is something we’ve all known has to happen for years but finally, possibly, could this really be the start of something?