PLZEN, Czech Republic (AP)It was a meaningless win to close out a disappointing Champions League campaign for Barcelona.
Barcelona finished the group stage with a 4-2 win at Viktoria Plzen on Tuesday, a result that did little to cushion the blow of the Catalan club’s second consecutive early exit in the European competition.
”The overall evaluation of our group campaign has to be negative,” Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez said. ”We had qualification in our own hands and didn’t manage it. We didn’t take our opportunities.”
Barcelona had already been eliminated in advance, while Plzen knew it had finished last in Group C. Barcelona ended the group stage with seven points in third place, guaranteed of a spot in the Europa League playoffs.
”Now we are candidates for the Europa League,” said Xavi, who didn’t use all of his regular starters on Tuesday. ”It’s a beautiful competition and we will fight to win it.”
Last season, Barcelona was eliminated from the second-tier competition by eventual champion Eintracht Frankfurt in the quarterfinals.
Ferran Torres scored twice and Marcos Alonso and teenager Pablo Torre grabbed a goal each for the Catalan club on Tuesday. The hosts got on the board with a pair of goals by Tomas Chor�.
Barcelona’s only other group-stage victory had been 5-1 against Plzen in their opener. It then lost 2-0 at Bayern Munich and 1-0 at Inter Milan, which both advanced to the next round. Bayern beat Inter 2-0 at home on Tuesday for its six straight victory in the group.
A 3-3 draw at home against Inter then meant Barcelona needed the Italian team to stumble in its final matches, which didn’t happen. Barcelona also lost 3-0 at home to Bayern.
It was the first time since 1999 that Barcelona failed to advance to the knockout stage in consecutive years, coinciding with the departure of Lionel Messi to Paris Saint-Germain two seasons ago.
This season’s failure to advance was a humbling setback after Barcelona went on a spending spree to boost its squad in the hope of recovering some of that money with a deep run in the European competition. But not even the addition of the likes of Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha were enough in the Champions League.
Lewandowski was not in the squad on Tuesday because of a minor back issue. Midfielders Franck Kessie and Torre were substituted during the match because of injuries.
Barcelona has its focus on the Spanish league, where it trails Real Madrid by one point at the top of the standings. It has won 10 of its first 12 league matches.
Plzen finished its campaign with six losses. It was outscored 24-5 by its opponents.
”It was really tough group and I have to say we did not expect it to be as difficult,” Plzen goalkeeper Jindrich Stanek said.
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