Barca stumble at home and may not reach last 16 – yet they don’t seem to mind?

The Camp Nou at full-time on Tuesday evening was a strange place to be.

Barcelona had just drawn 0-0 at home to Benfica in their fifth Champions League group game. Such a historically bad result meant that the Blaugrana side will likely have to win at Bayern Munich in their final group game to avoid a first group-stage elimination in this competition since 2000-2001.

But the mood inside the stadium was still closer to celebration than recriminations. There were no whistles or white hankies — instead there was supportive applause for a team that had given everything but just not been able to find the winning goal their fans were sure their performance had deserved.

Barca had been unlucky — teenage attacker Yusuf Demir had hit the crossbar with a 20-yard curler in the first half, while young centre-back Ronald Araujo had what seemed a late winner ruled out by a wafer-thin, if correct, offside flag.

The influence of new coach and talisman Xavi was clear on the team already — they were playing with more intensity, verve, ideas, structure. They were pressing higher and harder, taking more risks, breaking forward with more players and seemed to be running riot at times.

As time ran out, Barca threw everything forward to try and get the goal they knew they needed. When the game ended, the whistles were for the referee not allowing one last Barca attack, rather than being directed at a home team that are on the brink of what others might see as a huge European embarrassment.

“The only thing I am unhappy about is the result — the effort, the inspiration, the play I am happy with, we deserved to win, we played a tremendous game.


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