Barcelona blew a wonderful opportunity to advance to the Champions League knockout stages, drawing 0-0 at home against Benfica. The Catalan club will now have to play out its European fate in its final group stage meeting.

Even though Barça dominated the most of the match and had several high-quality scoring opportunities, they were unable to overcome a resolute Portuguese defence and lose the match.

Barcelona vs Benfica Barças Champions League Hopes on Knife ...

The Blaugrana must now win away at Bayern Munich to save from having to play in the Europa League. Oh boy.

Primary Half

Xavi shook things up by starting a different lineup, and Barça did the same by going with a back three, two holding midfielders, and essentially a front five that put a lot of pressure on Benfica, looked to dominate possession, and made plenty of runs in behind to try to break down the Eagles’ defence.

Nico González was the primary force behind Barça’s assault, as he repeatedly drove the ball forward from the back; he even created a golden opportunity for Jordi Alba, but the full back was unable to past Vlachodimos and waste Barça’s best scoring chance.

Benfica did not do much offensively in the first half, but started to get into it in the second. Ten minutes later, Nicolás Otamendi scored an incredible goal to give his team the lead, but it was disallowed because the corner went out of play. Barça ended the half on a high note, with Yusuf Demir coming close to scoring with a stunning curler that struck the crossbar.

Despite the scoreless first half, Barça seemed like the stronger team going into the second.

Proposed Second Half

Benfica went into the second half expecting nothing more than a tie. The away team carefully controlled the number of men they committed forward and defended aggressively to prevent Barça from mounting any serious attacks. They were also hoping to kill time, possibly discover a winning ticket at the counter while avoiding difficulties in the rear.

Barça didn’t start the game with enough urgency, but they picked it up in the final 30 minutes. With 25 minutes remaining, the Frenchman Ousmane Dembélé came off the bench aiming to affect the game with his pace and talent. Immediately, the substitute had an impact, sending in a wonderful cross to Frenkie De Jong, whose header was well saved by Vlachodimos.

In the final ten minutes, Benfica completely stopped moving, while Barça remained calm and patiently worked to generate a scoring opportunity. They thought they scored when Ronald Araujo volleyed home Jordi Alba’s pinpoint cross from within the box, but the goal was called back because Araujo was in the wrong offensive zone.

The Blaugrana never gave up and played their hearts out, but they were unable to find the winning goal before the final whistle blew, ending a dismal evening for Barça.

Barça will likely require a win away to Bayern Munich on the final matchday because Benfica will be heavy favourites at home against Dynamo Kiev, and the odds of that happening are very tiny. Barça’s first two defeats have caught up with them, and now they may actually make the Europa League playoffs.