Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez promised to return the Spanish giants to European football’s top after they were knocked out of the Champions League by Bayern Munich 3-0 on Wednesday.
For the first time in 21 years, five-time European winners Barcelona were eliminated in the group stages. Since 2003-04, when they did not qualify for the competition at all, they had reached the final 16 in every season.
Bayern Munich led 2-0 at halftime thanks to goals from Thomas Mueller and Leroy Sane under falling snow at the Allianz Arena, which was barren of fans because to the high number of Covid-19 cases in Bavaria.
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After the break, teen Jamal Musiala scored Bayern’s third goal to clinch Barcelona’s fate.
“I’m enraged.” I don’t like the fact that this is now our reality. “From here, we begin a new period – to work hard and return to the Champions League,” Xavi remarked.
Bayern had already qualified for the knockout stages as Group E winners, having defeated Barca 3-0 at the Camp Nou in September.
They’ve now joined Liverpool and Ajax in the group stage with a perfect six wins from six games.
Barcelona finishes third and drops into the Europa League as Benfica beat Dynamo Kiev 2-0 at home.
Bayern had not lost a home Champions League game in the group stage in almost eight years, and the Bundesliga leaders were not in the mood to be generous.
After his first loss as head coach against Real Betis last weekend, Xavi, 41, has now endured back-to-back defeats in command of struggling Barcelona.
“We start from the beginning. Xavi insisted, “Unfortunately, we are in the Europa League, which is not the right place for us.”
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“We will put in a lot of effort to get Barcelona back on track.” We have a lot of stuff to fix.
“We need to win the Europa League and make up ground in the Spanish league,” says the coach.
“We’ve had some injuries, and we might be able to recruit some more players, but we’re starting from scratch.”
Bayern was not even close to being at full strength.
Musiala, 18, was forced to play out of position in defensive midfield alongside Corentin Tolisso due to Joshua Kimmich’s quarantine following a positive Covid test and Leon Goretzka’s injury.
Barcelona started brightly but slumped after losing Jordi Alba to injury after half an hour, just before Mueller put Bayern ahead.
Mueller scored his 50th Champions League goal when his header went past Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen. Robert Lewandowski found space on the left side of the box and flicked a pass to him.
It was a double whammy for the Barcelona bench, who had just learned that Benfica had taken a 2-0 lead over Dynamo in Lisbon.
Sane hit the net with a thunderous long-range strike that fooled Ter Stegen, making things much worse for Barca.
When Bayern attacked immediately after the halftime, Sane should have put the game out of reach.
He put the ball into Ter Stegen’s thankful arms instead of tapping it into the empty net.
Alphonso Davies, who tormented Barcelona in Bayern’s historic 8-2 quarter-final thrashing, wreaked havoc down the left wing once more.
On 62 minutes, the quicksilver Canadian provided Bayern’s third goal by pulling the ball back for Musiala to tap in from close range.
Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann began removing first-choice players with 20 minutes remaining and the game virtually finished.
Davies and Kingsley Coman were the first to depart.
Then came star striker Lewandowski and centre-back Niklas Suele, but Barcelona couldn’t get close to Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.
Mueller backed Xavi to turn Barcelona around after the final whistle.
“When you look at the (Barcelona) team, you can see that they are good players with everything they need,” Mueller remarked.
“We know things behind the scenes aren’t going so well, and I had the impression they couldn’t find the intensity they required, which aided our case.”