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.

MORE: How tiebreakers work in Champions League?

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

1. Bayern Munich (X) 15 5 5 0 0 19 3 +16
2. FC Barcelona 7 5 2 2 1 2 6 -4
3. Benfica 5 5 1 2 2 5 9 -4
4. Dynamo Kyiv 1 5 0 4 1 1 9 -8

Barcelona scenarios: How the Blaugrana can advance

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

  • Barcelona win at Bayern Munich
  • Benfica loss or draw vs. Dynamo Kyiv

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.

MORE: How the Europa League knockout round playoffs work

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.

MORE: Champions League top goal scorers

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)

Edition Stage reached Eliminated by Group finish Group record (Goals)
2020-21 Round of 16 PSG (5-2 agg.) 2nd (Grp. G) 5W-1L-0D (16-5, +11)
2019-20 Quarterfinals Bayern (8-2 agg.) 1st (Grp. F) 4W-0L-2D (9-4, +5)
2018-19 Semifinals Liverpool (4-3 agg.) 1st (Grp. B) 4W-0L-2D (14-5, +9)
2017-18 Quarterfinals Roma (4-4 agg.) 1st (Grp. D) 4W-0L-2D (9-1, +8)
2016-17 Quarterfinals Juventus (3-0 agg.) 1st (Grp. C) 5W-1L-0D (20-4, +16)
2015-16 Quarterfinals Atletico (3-2 agg.) 1st (Grp. E) 4W-0L-2D (15-4, +11)
2014-15 Champion 1st (Grp. F) 5W-1L-0D (15-5, +10)
2013-14 Quarterfinals Atletico (2-1 agg.) 1st (Grp. H) 4W-1L-1D (16-5, +11)
2012-13 Semifinals Bayern (7-0 agg.) 1st (Grp. G) 4W-1L-1D (11-5, +6)
2011-12 Semifinals Chelsea (3-2 agg.) 1st (Grp. H) 5W-0L-1D (20-4, +16)
2010-11 Champion 1st (Grp. D) 4W-0L-2D (14-3, +11)
2009-10 Semifinals Inter Milan (3-2 agg.) 1st (Grp. F) 3W-1L-2D (7-3, +4)
2008-09 Champion 1st (Grp. C) 4W-1L-1D (18-8, +10)
2007-08 Semifinals Man United (1-0 agg.) 1st (Grp. E) 4W-0L-2D (12-3, +9)
2006-07 Round of 16 Liverpool (2-2 agg.) 2nd (Grp. A) 3W-1L-2D (12-4, +8)
2005-06 Champion 1st (Grp. C) 5W-0L-1D (16-2, +14)
2004-05 Round of 16 Chelsea (5-4 agg.) 2nd (Grp. F) 3W-2L-1D (9-6, +3)
2003-04 Did Not Qualify      
2002-03* Quarterfinals Juventus (3-2 agg.) 1st (Grp. H)
1st (Grp. A)
6W-0L-0D (13-4, +9)
5W-0L-1D (12-2, +10)
2001-02* Semifinals Real Madrid (3-1 agg.) 1st (Grp. F)
1st (Grp. B)
5W-1L-0D (12-5, +7)
2W-1L-3D (7-7, 0)
2000-01* Group Stage N/A 3rd (Grp. H) 2W-2L-2D (13-9, +4)
1999-00* Semifinals Valencia (5-3 agg.) 1st (Grp. B)
1st (Grp. A)
4W-0L-2D (19-9, +10)
5W-0L-1D (17-5, +12)
1998-99 Group Stage N/A 3rd (Grp. D) 2W-2L-2D (11-9, +2)
1997-98 Group Stage N/A 4th (Grp. C) 1W-3L-2D (7-14, -7)
1996-97 Did not qualify      
1995-96 Did not qualify      
1994-95 Quarterfinals PSG (3-2 agg.) 2nd (Grp. A) 2W-2L-2D (11-8, +3)
1993-94 Final AC Milan (4-0) 1st (Grp. A) 4W-0L-2D (13-3, +10)
1992-93 2nd Round CSKA Moscow (4-3 agg.) N/A N/A

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