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Descent into Europa League reflects where Barcelona are at


No-one expected Barcelona to do anything other than lose in Munich. It was a defeat lacking in suspense or drama; they were so manifestly inferior that it was never in doubt. Against a Bayern side who played without Joshua Kimmich and at a pre-season pace, Barça were second best from start to finish, and it was a faithful reflection of how strong each club’s squad is. This is where Barça were at under Ronald Koeman and where they remain under Xavi, who has arrived to put out a fire but doesn’t have a hose. His appointment boosted morale at the Camp Nou, but there’s no escaping the reality of the situation. Barça have the players they have and this is what they are capable of. More than anything else, they struggle to score goals. They’re out in the group stage having managed two in six games.

Barcelona aren't good enough to win Europa League right now

Barcelona drop into the Europa League, and Culés must now get themselves up for that. It’s a special trophy that would complete the club’s European collection and earn them a ticket to next season’s Champions League, but they’ll have to improve greatly if they want to challenge for it. Just as they’ll have to improve greatly if they want a top-four finish in LaLiga. It’s an issue that hasn’t been spoken about a great deal, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there. Following the weekend defeat to Real Betis, after all, Jordi Alba said they’d lost to a direct rival. Xavi spoke post-match about a new chapter and working hard, but he’s got a tough task ahead of him. He can make his team a better-drilled outfit, sure; but either you have goals in your side or you go out and buy them. He doesn't and he can't.

Sevilla join Barcelona in Europa League

Sevilla also go into the Europa League, which is a greater disappointment for them. They were expected to beat RB Salzburg. “It’s not the prize we were after, but from February we’ll be going all out to win the competition,” sporting director Monchi said last night. For Sevilla, at least, the Europa League is a tournament they know well, one that has given them the happiest moments in their history. Unlike Barça, they’re not embarrassed by it. But their sights were set higher and they’ve come up short. In Europe, they’ve lacked the energy that has characterised their best displays. So Real Madrid and Atlético are through, Barça and Sevilla are in the Europa League and today, snow permitting, Villarreal will break that tie.