Disaster in Catalonia as Barcelona fail to make it out of their Champions League group
And just like that, the Champions League group stage was over. It always seems to go so fast, that no sooner have the teams been drawn into their respective groups, the whole thing is over, and fans await the draw for the knockout stages.
Because of the disparity in wealth between the top European sides and the lesser ones, usually we don’t tend to see many outcomes that go against the pre-tournament odds. In Group F for example, even though Manchester United have not been having a great season by their own high standards, many people were still betting on them to win the group because of the talent they have in their squad, with players such as Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba. Therefore, anyone who used a sportsbook to top Group F would have been very happy with the outcome, as they finished on 11 points.
The group stage is always one of the best times to place bets on the Champions League, as on each game week there are several games happening, all at the same time. It means that sports bettors searching for live scores and odds will be able to place their bets on multiple teams, maybe taking advantage of betting parlays offered at the top betting sites. Place a few of these correct bets per game week, and you’ll be a very happy (and wealthy) person!
Looking through the Champions League groups, in the vast majority the betting favourites, aka the richest and most successful teams, are the ones who made it through to the knockout stages. In Group B Liverpool and Atletico Madrid qualified, whilst in Group D Real Madrid and Inter Milan made it through, as most sportsbooks predicted. It was the same in Group H, as Juventus and Chelsea progressed to the next round, as in Group A, with Manchester City and PSG doing enough to finish ahead of RB Leipzig and Club Brugge.
There are always exceptions to these rules, in Group C, most bettors would have looked at the odds and been confident Borussia Dortmund would have qualified for the last 16. Instead, they only finished 3rd in their group, behind Ajax and Sporting Lisbon. Dortmund will be very disappointed with this outcome, even if now they stand a great chance of winning the Europa League.
However, the biggest surprise of all in this years’ Champions League group stages came in Group E. To everyone’s shock, including the oddsmakers, Barcelona did not qualify, instead of finishing 3rd behind Bayern Munich and Benfica. How did this happen? Let’s look at their results in closer detail.
Terrible start under Koeman
It was always expected that this year would be difficult for Barcelona, as they had major issues both on and off the pitch. Losing their talisman Leo Messi was bad enough, as he had kept the team competitive for years, even whilst the team around him was getting worse. But added with the turmoil at boardroom level, with the club announcing huge debts of over €1 billion, most bettors could have expected Barcelona to not be the favourite in the odds for each Champions League group like they used to be.
That said, few would have seen them bottom of the group with 0 points after 2 games. Yes, the 3-0 loss to Bayern Munich was embarrassing, but given how strong they have been of late, it was not entirely shocking. What was a surprise was the loss to Benfica, where the Catalan club collapsed to another 3-0 defeat.
Given their poor form in La Liga as well, it was inevitable that manager Ronald Koeman would lose his job at some stage. That is exactly what happened on the 29th of October, with former midfielder Xavi Hernandez coming in to replace him.
Minor improvement, but still not enough
Xavi was a popular appointment, and fans would have hoped he could instantly fix all of Barcelona’s glaring problems. He got off to a good start in the Champions League, as anyone betting on Barca beating Dynamo Kyiv away from home would have been happy with the 1-0 scoreline.
What they really needed was a win on matchday 5 against Benfica, at home in front of their fans. Win that game, and 2nd place looked like it was achievable. However, despite the best efforts, the game ended 0-0. All Benfica had to do now was to beat Kyiv, whilst Barcelona had to somehow win against Bayern.
The betting odds were heavily in the German side’s favour, not only due to their form but because they were playing at the Allianz Arena in Munich. Goals from Thomas Muller, Leroy Sane and Jamal Musiala were enough to defeat the Spanish side, with Xavi almost incandescent with rage at the end.
So Barcelona failed to get out of the group stages for the first time since the 2003/04 season. They now have a Europa League campaign to look forward to, and will be hoping to win that competition, as that will mean automatic qualification for next year’s Champions League.