Barcelona and Atlético Madrid: destination Europa League?
After three Champions League games, two of the clear favorites to make it to the round of 16 are now in trouble after losing to Inter and Club Brugge.
They were favorites to advance to the Champions League group of 16 but after only three games they are closer to the Europa League than the knockout stages of the most prestigious competition in Europe.
Barcelona and Atlético Madrid are in a critical situation after losing to Inter Milan and Club Brugge respectively and now need to win their next games against the same teams next week to keep their chances of progressing alive.
The Catalan giants were seen as the stronger side against the Nerazzurri, especially taking into account Inter’s bad start to the season in Serie A and Barcelona’s consistent performances in LaLiga.
Truth is there’s a lot of pressure on Barça players but it probably is justified, as the club dominated the headlines last summer with their signings revolution led by president Joan Laporta after activating different economic levers (selling assets).
Although Barcelona are in Group C, known as the ‘group of death’, with Bayern Munich, Inter, and Viktoria Plzen, most fans and experts saw the Culers advancing to the next round together with the German powerhouse. But the reality is that Barça are sitting third with three points, while Inter have six and Bayern have already grabbed nine.
More problems for Barça: Christensen and Kessié out
The Catalans now face a must-win game against Inter next Wednesday and will probably need to get a good result against Bayern, which is far from an easy task.
Without Ronald Araújo, Jules Koundé, Héctor Bellerín, and now Andreas Christensen in defense due to injury, things will get even more difficult for Xavi’s squad and Gerard Piqué and Eric García will likely be the two centre-backs in the starting XI against the Italians.
Failing to make it to the round of 16 would be a huge blow for Barcelona’s economy, as they added around 800M to their cap by activating the economic levers to be able to sign.
Atlético struggling in Europe again
Another Spanish heavyweight in recent years is suffering more than expected in a group that doesn’t look as scary as Barcelona’s.
Paired with Porto, Bayer Leverkusen, and Club Brugge, Atlético seemed heavy favorites to make it to the next round, but the Champions League has proven in recent years that the group stages can produce some big upsets.
Although the Colchoneros suffered to secure their ticket to the qualifying rounds in the very last group stage game last term, very few imagined the possibility of seeing Diego Simeone’s men in the Europa League.
Atlético are last in the Group B table with three points, tied with Leverkusen and Porto, while Brugge are the clear leaders with nine points. Moreover, the Spanish side could have an extra issue with their goal difference, as they lost 2-0 to Brugge and Leverkusen, and the final game against Porto promises to be a difficult test for Atleti.
The positive news for El Cholo is that his players depend on themselves to avoid the Europa League. Their next two games will be played at the Cívitas Metropolitano against Brugge and Leverkusen, and they need to get six points to reach the last game in with a chance of being among the 16 best teams in Europe.