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Barcelona in serious risk of dropping to Europa League after failing to beat Benfica

Barcelona were held to a 0-0 draw by Benfica.
Barcelona were held to a 0-0 draw by Benfica.
ANALYST

Xavi Hernandez’s fairy-tale start didn’t last long. The 41-year-old took charge of his first Barcelona game last week in La Liga, which the Blaugrana won by a solitary goal. However, things weren’t as smooth when the Blaugrana welcomed Benfica in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday.

Barcelona were two points above the Portuguese side, and a win would’ve secured their place in the last 16 of the competition. But that did not happen. Rather, Xavi’s side was given a tough game by Benfica, who didn’t hold back at all at the Camp Nou. In the end, both teams had to settle for a goalless draw.

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Blaugrana held by Benfica

Xavi remains unbeaten as Barcelona boss. But the stalemate against Benfica was a disappointing result no matter how one chooses to look at it. The former Al Sadd manager named a very youthful squad, with Ronald Araujo, Yusuf Demir, Nico Gonzalez and Pablo Gavira all starting.

However, despite the Blaugrana’s best efforts, they were unable to break down their opponents. Demir went close twice, forcing a save from Benfica goalkeeper Odisseas Vlachodimos, and hitting the crossbar late on.

Gonzalez and Gerard Pique also spurned gilt-edged chances in the second half, which could have changed the face of the game. However, Benfica were no pushovers either.

The Portuguese side created equally decent chances. Thanks to Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s stops and an incredible miss from Haris Seferovic with the entire goal at his mercy, the visitors could have taken all three points. In all fairness, though, a draw was probably a fair result on the night.

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Barcelona risk missing Champions League knockouts

Meanwhile, the result favours Benfica more than it does Barcelona. As things stand, Xavi’s side will have to win at group leaders Bayern Munich to secure their place in the last 16.

Should they drop points in Munich and Benfica beat Dynamo Kyiv at home, the Blaugrana will drop to the Europa League.

"We were far superior to Benfica, and we played a great game; we only missed the goal. If we had scored, we would be talking about a great game,” Xavi said after the game, as quoted by Mirror.

The new Barcelona manager exuded confidence of his team’s chances of going through to the knockouts in two weeks time. However, he also suggested that the club needs reinforcements in the winter transfer window. Xavi said:

"I'm still optimistic. We're Barca; we have talent and players to make a difference. But today we added one point, and that's not Barca worthy. Today we have seen that there is no physical issue. What we must do is regain the confidence of the players who can score goals. We will see what we can do on the market in January."

Bayern Munich have won all five Champions League games this season, and are confirmed as group winners. The Bavarian giants have scored 19 times in the competition, conceding only thrice.

Meanwhile, Barcelona have struggled to score, which might hurt their knockout chances. It remains to be seen what Xavi can conjure at the Allianz Arena in a fortnight from now.


Edited by Bhargav

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