Barcelona out of the Champions League? Explaining how it could happen

Barcelona has been in the UEFA Champions League knockout rounds every year since 2005. That streak is in perilous danger as it enters its final group-stage match of the 2021-22 edition on Wednesday.

The Blaugrana (7 points) need to somehow hold on to second place to assure themselves a spot in the knockouts. But third-place Benfica (5 points) is breathing down their necks. 

If Benfica wins its home game against last-place Dynamo Kyiv, only a Barcelona win at tournament favorite Bayern Munich would guarantee passage to the Round of 16. Here’s what Barcelona has going for it in a typically tough trip to Munich: There will be no fans permitted in the stadium and Bayern will likely be fielding several reserves since it’s already assured of finishing in first place.

If Benfica wins and Barcelona loses, the Portuguese side would leapfrog the Blaugrana into second place. If Benfica wins and Barcelona draws, they would finish even on points, but Benfica holds the tiebreaker based on head-to-head results. The team that finishes in third place will earn the conslation prize of a ticket to the Europa League Round of 16 playoffs in February.

Group E standings

Barcelona scenarios: How the Blaugrana can advance

Here’s what Barcelona needs to survive the group stage on the final matchday: 

If Barcelona fails to beat Bayern and Benfica wins its match, then Barcelona is out of the competition. However, as the third-place team the Spanish side would drop into the Europa League knockout round playoffs, where it could battle for the second-most important trophy in Europe.

When was Barcelona last eliminated in the group stage?

The last time Barcelona was not in the knockout stages of the Champions League was back in 2004, but that’s because it failed to qualify for that tournament after finishing in sixth place in Spain’s La Liga the season before (only the top four from La Liga qualified).

You need to go back a few more years to find the last time Barcelona failed to emerge from a group stage.

In 2000-01, one season after making the tournament semifinals, the Blaugrana finished in third place in Group H, suffering elimination in the first of two group stages played in those years.

Barcelona missed out on qualification by one point behind second-place Leeds United (England), and three points behind group winners AC Milan (Italy). A shocking 3-0 loss to Turkish side Besiktas proved costly for Barcelona in that group stage. 

Barcelona Champions League history

Here is Barcelona’s track record in the 29 previous editions of the UEFA Champions League since the revamping of the competition in 1992-93.

The Blaugrana have won the competition four times (2006, 2009, 2011, 2015), failing to qualify for three other editions (1995-96, 1996-97, 2003-04). 

(* = two group stages played in these editions)

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