It was a bold decision to start the team in a 3-4-2-1. It was a bold decision to start Clement Lenglet ahead of Eric Garcia. It was a bold decision to use Yusuf Demir as a right-wingback. It was a bold decision to make only one sub till minute 86.
And all of those bold decisions would have paid off yesternight against Benfica for Xavi had it not been for a few brainfarts in front of goal by Barcelona.
It was a final for Barça, as Xavi put it, and missing so many chances did not help the Blaugranas‘ case. They can still qualify for the Champions League Round of 16, though, even though the journey became several times tougher.
How, you ask? Well, the simple answer is a win against Bayern Munich.
Barça have seven points in the group and sit in second place, two clear off Benfica. They have to take on Dynamo Kyiv, but three points against the Ukrainian side won’t matter if Xavi’s men can steal a win from Bayern.
A win against Bayern, though, is a daunting task, to say the least. They are arguably the best side in Europe and put three past Barça at the Camp Nou earlier this season.
In the event of a similar outcome, the garnet and blue will rest their hopes on Kyiv. Benfica could only come back with a solitary point during the two side’s previous meeting, and another draw will put Barcelona through regardless of their result.
While a draw against Bayern will put them level on points with Benfica, who assumingly win against Kyiv, it will not be enough for Barcelona. Two consecutive 3-0 losses in the UCL has kicked their goal difference to a -4, the same as Benfica’s.
Benfica will go through on a better goal difference and head-to-head record if the sides end up on eight points each.
In layman’s terms: if Barcelona lose to Bayern, they can only survive if Kyiv avoid defeat against Benfica. Otherwise, Xavi will experience something new in his first season: the Europa League.