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Xavi defiant despite Barca’s early CL exit

Barcelona have failed to reach the knockout rounds of the Champions League for the first time in 18 years after a 3-0 loss to Bayern Munich ensured the Catalan club was eliminated from European soccer’s premier competition.

Barcelona drop into the Europa League after finishing third in Group E, thanks to Benfica’s 2-0 win over Dynamo Kyiv in the other game on Wednesday night.

That ended the Spanish giants’ campaign which would have been unthinkable in the club’s heyday with Lionel Messi up front and Pep Guardiola as coach from 2008 through 2012.

The group stage began with a 3-0 loss to Bayern at the Camp Nou and got worse with a 3-0 defeat and 0-0 draw against Portugal’s Benfica. Barca scored only two goals in six games, both against last-place Dynamo, and conceded nine.

“We start a new era, from zero, from here, to work hard and to recover Barca and to put Barca in the place that we deserve, that is in the top of the Champions League,” coach Xavi told broadcaster DAZN.

“This is our reality. We are out of Champions League, we are in Europa League, but this is not the place of Barcelona.”

The five-time European champions last failed to make the last-16 in 2003-04. That season, Barcelona missed the Champions League entirely and played in what was then the UEFA Cup, thanks to a poor Spanish league finish the season before.

Defeat in Munich will deepen Barcelona’s already overwhelming financial problems as they miss out on lucrative prize money and exposure for sponsors. Sitting seventh domestically means they may not even qualify for next year’s competition.

“We need to work hard, many things that put Barcelona in this situation. But this is our reality. I cannot say anything else,” Xavi added.

“We need to win Europa League, work hard for recovering points in La Liga, win the cup, win the Super Cup, this is what Barcelona deserve … We will try to work hard. We have many injuries. Maybe we can sign some players now in January. Let’s see.”

The first goal Barcelona conceded in an empty Allianz Arena because of new pandemic-related restrictions was one of fine margins, with goal-line technology required to show Thomas Muller’s looping header had crossed the line.

The second was a simple goalkeeping error as Marc-Andre ter Stegen let Leroy Sane’s speculative long-range shot bounce in off his arm.

The deficit worsened in the 62nd minute when Canadian left-back Alphonso Davies cut the ball back for Jamal Musiala, who applied a simple finish from within a crowd of Barcelona players.

Besides the shock of not qualifying, Barca may have to deal with an injury for Jordi Alba after he limped off with an apparent thigh problem.

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