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Sports Grim future: Loss to Bayern exposes Barcelona’s new reality

19:56  15 september  2021
19:56  15 september  2021 Source:   msn.com

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MADRID (AP) — Barcelona needs to brace for some tough times ahead while adjusting to the post-Lionel Messi era.

a group of football players on a field © Provided by The Canadian Press

That message was clear after the 3-0 loss at home to Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Tuesday, the team’s first defeat since Messi left amid the club's financial struggles.

“It is what it is, we are what we are now,” veteran Barcelona captain Gerard Piqué said after the Catalan club was outplayed from the start at the Camp Nou. “It’s a complicated season.”

Looking nothing like the team that used to thrive when Messi was on the field, Barcelona couldn’t get a single shot on goal the entire match and saw Bayern constantly threaten the other way.

Barcelona's sad new reality: Bayern Munich prove Catalans can no longer compete with Europe's elite

  Barcelona's sad new reality: Bayern Munich prove Catalans can no longer compete with Europe's elite The Bavarians cruised with a 3-0 win at Camp Nou which underlined just how far the hosts have fallen behind the best teams in the Champions LeagueBy the end, Barcelona fans were more concerned with a ball being tossed around in a stand behind Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s goal than the game itself.

“We would like to have competed better, but this is what we have right now,” Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman said. “I can’t complain about our attitude, we tried our best. But there is a difference in talent and a difference between a team that has played a long time together and our team with lots of young players. It is difficult to accept, but we have to keep working.”

The loss came more than a year after the embarrassing 8-2 debacle against Bayern in the quarterfinals of the Champions League two seasons ago, a defeat that began exposing Barcelona's struggles on and off the field.

“Poor Barça,” read a front-page headline from sports daily Marca on Wednesday.

“The sad reality,” said the daily Sport.

Koeman, who was hired shortly after the rout against Bayern, said it will take time for Barcelona to return to a top level.

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“Our young players have a lot of potential, in two or three years they will be playing much better,” Koeman said. “But right now, it is what it is.”

Koeman also lost Antoine Griezmann in the transfer window last month, when the team's main addition was Netherlands forward Memphis Depay. The club added veteran Sergio Aguero but he is among the several players recovering from injury, along with youngsters Ousmane Dembélé, Sergiño Dest and Ansu Fati. Koeman used 18-year-old Yusuf Demir and 17-year-old Gavi on Tuesday. Pedri González, also 18, was a starter.

“I look at the positive fact that we had some 18-year-old players coming into the match,” Piqué said. “It’s our reality now.”

Barcelona will have to rely a lot on its youngsters as it tries to recover from dire financial conditions caused by the pandemic and poor management. The Catalan club wasn’t able to hand Messi a new contract and saw him leave for free to Paris Saint-Germain, one of the main contenders for the Champions League title this season.

Bayern's Nagelsmann back at old club Leipzig in Bundesliga

  Bayern's Nagelsmann back at old club Leipzig in Bundesliga DÜSSELDORF, Germany (AP) — Bayern Munich coach Julian Nagelsmann will get a large dose of déjà vu when his team visits Leipzig in the Bundesliga on Saturday. After all, Nagelsmann was Leipzig coach until the end of last season and two of his Bayern players, defender Dayot Upamecano and midfielder Marcel Sabitzer, were on that Leipzig team, too. Sabitzer was a Leipzig player until 10 days ago, when he signed on to Bayern. Leipzig coach Jesse Marsch said on Thursday his team might have to tweak its tactics to stop Bayern making full use of Sabitzer's insider knowledge. For Nagelsmann, it's a chance to push ahead of potential title rivals such as Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund.

There were signs Barcelona fans weren't too optimistic when they failed to buy all tickets available for Tuesday's match, something that rarely happened when Messi was still around, especially in a big Champions League match.

Piqué said it was “hurtful” to hear jeers from the Camp Nou crowd for Sergi Roberto, who was singled out for his poor performance while playing improvised on the right flank.

Piqué said the next few weeks will be key for Barcelona, a five-time champion in Europe's top competition.

“We need to win our next matches in the Champions League and stay among the leaders in the Spanish league,” Piqué said. “Right now we are not considered favorites but we will see what happens at the end of the season. Chelsea also wasn’t the favorite to win the Champions League last season.”

Barcelona’s next match in Group E will be at Benfica later this month. Benfica opened with a 1-1 draw at Dynamo Kyiv on Tuesday.

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Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

Tales Azzoni, The Associated Press

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