Sunday 1/16/22
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Barcelona need miracle in Munich to avoid Champions League exit

Xavi Hernandez was a 20-year-old Barca player when they last failed to get past the group stage in 2000-01
14 September 2021, Spain, Barcelona: Barcelona's Gavi (L) and Munich's Leon Goretzka battle for the ball during the UEFA Champions League group E soccer match between FC Barcelona and Bayern Munich at Camp Nou Stadium. Photo: Sven Hoppe/dpa
Barcelona's Gavi and Munich's Leon Goretzka battle for the ball during the match between Barca and Bayern at Camp Nou. Photo: Sven Hoppe/dpa

Barcelona seek a miracle at Bayern Munich on Wednesday to avoid group stage elimination from the Champions League for the first time in more than two decades.

The Catalans most likely need victory at the group winners Bayern because Benfica, two points behind them in third, are big favourites in their final game at home against bottom side Dynamo Kiev.

But Bayern beat Barca 3-0 at the Nou Camp in September and clobbered them 8-2 en route to the 2020 title.

Barca and Benfica are fighting for one of five remaining last 16 spots in the elite event on the final matchday Tuesday and Wednesday.

The biggest excitement is in Group G where all four teams are in with a chance when leaders Lille go to bottom side Wolfsburg and second-placed Salzburg take on Sevilla, with Lille and Salzburg through if they avoid defeat.

There is also plenty to play for in Group B where Liverpool have won all five games but former winners Porto and AC Milan as well as past runners-up Atletico Madrid are separated by one point.

Milan host Liverpool and would advance with a win - after losing their first three games of the campaign -, provided that Porto and Aletico draw.

Xavi Hernandez was a 20-year-old Barca player when they last failed to get past the group stage in 2000-01, with Bayern taking the fourth of now five titles in that campaign.

Now Xavi is Barca coach and faces a huge task in Munich against the Bundesliga champions who like Liverpool and Ajax are yet to drop a point.

Behind closed doors

Debt-ridden Barca are far from their glory days and are coming off a 1-0 home defeat against Real Betis which sees them languish in seventh place in La Liga, 16 points off the top.

It was the first defeat for Xavi at the helm, and he admitted afterwards that "we will have to compete like animals" in Munich to stand a chance of advancing.

Barca at least won't face a hostile crowd because the game is played behind closed doors owing to tightened coronavirus regulations in Bavaria.

But Bayern will want to show their dominance again a few days after winning a Bundesliga topper 3-2 at Borussia Dortmund which according to midfielder Leon Goretzka was also "about the bragging rights in Germany, and of course you want to have them."

Bayern have similar ambitions in Europe and are already confirmed as group winners along with as Ajax, Liverpool and Manchester City.

Paris Saint-Germain and Sporting are assured of finishing second while Chelsea, Inter Milan, Juventus and record winners Real Madrid are in the last 16 but the placings in their groups yet to be decided.

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