The Barcelona players sat under the stands and watched the end of their Champions League run. They then ran onto the field and showed some of the reasons why. When this game started, they had already been eliminated, and they watched on TV as Internazionale beat Viktoria Plzen in the early kick-off, putting an end to any last, small hope.
They didn’t even get to have any fun before leaving, and they didn’t leave behind much to remember them by. Instead, they go into the Europa League with a 3-0 loss to Bayern Munich, their sixth straight loss to them. Aggregate score: 19-2.
Who knows? Maybe things would have been different if it had been important. Maybe it wasn’t the best idea for them to watch their execution right before it happened: “Being eliminated before the game hurt us,” said Xavi. And this is Bayern, which he called a “super team.” But in the end, Barcelona killed themselves, and now they feel they can’t play at this level because their bottom is too soft. Pedri said, “We’re a young team, and we don’t have enough yet to play in the Champions League.”
“You learn by taking the hits, and this is a major one,” was what Xavi had to say about the situation.
He acknowledged that Bayern was superior in every aspect. It wasn’t often obvious that there was any pride at stake or a desire to make a statement, even if there was. It’s not like Bayern annihilated them, as they did compete, but rather that they breezed through the competition. Even before Benjamin Pavard scored with his very last touch, the goals scored by Sadio Mané and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting were enough to seal the victory for their team.
There was not even one shot that Barcelona managed to hit on target. Even though Robert Lewandowski believed he should have been awarded a penalty right before halftime, it was not to be. The ball was taken away from him on the spot after Anthony Taylor consulted the video assistant referee and determined that Lewandowski had dived.
This demonstrated the team’s frustration as well as the impotence that characterized them. Each he and his former team were scoreless in both of their matchups against each other.
In any case, it was already done, which served as confirmation of what Barcelona had understood from the beginning of the day: that their fate would be decided on a field that was located a great distance away. Or, to be more precise, even back then that already had been the case. However, based on the facts presented, having it under their control would not have been any more advantageous.
Xavi referred to the competition as “brutal” after Barcelona was eliminated from the Champions League after suffering defeats in Munich and Milan. These losses were followed by a mistake-filled 3-3 draw with Inter, which left Barcelona staring into the abyss. They needed to win both of their remaining games and hope that Inter would lose both of theirs to advance.
Xavi had said, “Hope is the last thing you lose,” but it was the first.
Inter played a team that had lost its last four games and given up 16 goals. Players from Barcelona came to watch the game with Inter. It wasn’t much motivation: the Italians were up by two goals before halftime, and just as Barcelona came out to warm up, they scored their fourth goal. They knew it was over. It’s time for the second tier in Europe.
Xavi tried to avoid using the word “failure,” but Barcelona shouldn’t be in the Europa League. Not even the place they had planned on, let alone for a second season in a row. Terry Venables was the last manager to lead this team in the Uefa Cup for two years in a row. If last year was a reflection of their reality, as Gerard Piqué said, “it is what it is,” then this year was supposed to be different, which made it hurt even more.
Barcelona can’t pay for this, that’s for sure. At a time when every euro counts, this early exit will cost about 20 million euros and have other costs as well.
There is also an emotional aspect. The (in)famous levers pulled, multiple signatures made, and assets sold were all risks that were meant to start a good cycle. Instead, Barcelona has been eliminated from the tournament earlier than any other team in the last 24 years, with one game left to play. There were two.
Serge Gnabry slipping in the knife didn’t let them enjoy the first one or give them hope for the future. Just nine minutes into the game, he moved Héctor Bellern out of the way so Mané could score the first goal. At the half-hour mark, he did it again by rolling the ball to Choupo-Moting, who scored. In the end, he hit a volley that Pavard put in for the third goal and his third assist. Gnabry thought he had scored his own goal earlier, but it was ruled out. It didn’t matter. In the end, none of it worked out. It was all over before it even began.
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