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CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

What result does Barcelona need to advance to the next round of the Champions League?

Xavi Hernández’s stars are one step away from qualifying for the knockout stage, but defeat against Porto could quickly turn things sour.

Xavi Hernández’s stars are one step away from qualifying for the knockout stage, but defeat against Porto could quickly turn things sour.
OSCAR DEL POZOAFP

The return of the Champions League heralds the comeback of a competition that has recently turned its back on the entire Barcelona team. Now, the Catalans find themselves face to face with it once again, obligated to navigate the group stage as if it were cursed. It’s a wound that the team is determined to close at any cost. Securing passage to the knockout stages of the premier continental competition has become the immediate goal for Xavi Hernandez’s team.

Barcelona on verge of Champions League knockouts

The objective is clear, and with the calculator in hand, Barcelona has everything in its favour. A victory against Porto would virtually ensure the top spot in the group, where they currently sit. Even a draw against the Portuguese side would be sufficient if Shakhtar fails to defeat Antwerp in their Hamburg exile. Such a scenario would mark Barcelona’s return to the round of 16 after a two-season absence. While this information inspires optimism, they are by no means a guarantee, especially in the context of Barcelona’s recent performance.

Here we assess the simple and more complicated routes to qualification.

Barcelona secures qualification:

  • If they defeat Porto
  • If they draw with Porto, and Shakhtar fails to win against Antwerp

Barcelona would be virtually qualified:

  • If they lose to Porto, and Shakhtar lose to Antwerp

Barcelona fate could go down to final day in Group H

In the event that Barcelona lose to Porto and Shakhtar defeats Antwerp, the qualification would be determined on a last, decisive matchday. The Portuguese side would enter the final matchday as group leaders with 12 points and qualification secured, while Barcelona and Shakhtar would have nine points each.

Barcelona qualifies:

  • If they defeat Antwerp and Porto defeats Shakhtar
  • If they defeat Antwerp and both Porto and Shakhtar draw
  • If they draw with Antwerp, and Shakhtar fails to win against Porto
  • If they lose to Antwerp, and Shakhtar loses to Porto

In the unlikely event that, on the final group stage matchday, Barcelona triumphs over Antwerp and Shakhtar prevails in Porto, a three-way tie at 12 points would occur. UEFA’s tiebreaker criteria would then come into play, potentially jeopardizing Barcelona’s advancement in the Champions League.

Barcelona and the round of 16 tiebreaker

UEFA, as outlined in Article 17 of its Champions League Regulations, specifies criteria for tiebreakers in the Group Stage. The first criterion is points obtained in direct encounters among the involved teams. In this scenario we have outlined, both Porto and Barcelona and Shakhtar have six points each from their matches against each other. Consequently, the second criterion is applied.

The goal difference in direct encounters becomes crucial. Barcelona will be aware that a narrow defeat against Porto could potentially spare them from elimination. For instance:

  • If Barcelona loses 0-2 to Porto, any victory for Shakhtar against Porto would be sufficient for them to secure a spot in the Round of 16. In such a scenario, both Ukrainian and Barcelona teams would have the same goal difference, but Shakhtar would advance based on the third tiebreaker criterion: a higher number of goals scored.
1 - Porto6 points5 goals in favor3 goals againstGoal difference: +1
2 - Shakhtar6 points4 goals in favor5 goals againstGoal difference: -1
3 - Barcelona6 points3 goals in favor4 goals againstGoal difference: -1

If Barcelona lose 0-1 to Porto, the Catalan team would advance to the round of 16 as long as Shakhtar only secures a 0-1 victory over the Portuguese side on the final matchday. However, if Donetsk wins at Do Dragão with a goal difference of more than one, qualification would go to the Ukrainian team.

1 - Porto6 points4 goals in favor3 goals againstGoal difference: +1
2 - Barcelona6 points3 goals in favor3 goals againstGoal difference: 0
3 - Shakhtar6 points4 goals in favor5 goals againstGoal difference: -1

If Barcelona lose 1-2 to Porto, Xavi Hernandez’s team would secure qualification to the round of 16 as long as Shakhtar only wins by 0-1 in Porto. However, if the Ukrainian team secures a victory in Portugal by more than one goal, Barcelona would be eliminated.

1 - Porto6 points5 goals in favor3 goals againstGoal difference: +1
2 - Barcelona6 points4 goals in favor4 goals againstGoal difference: 0
3 - Shakhtar6 points4 goals in favor5 goals againstGoal difference: -1

As we said at the beginning, Barça know what they need to do on Gameday 5 to avoid the need for any complications.

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