UK News Silver lining for Barca - who made knockouts after losing first two?

02:55  01 october  2021
02:55  01 october  2021 Source:   dailymail.co.uk

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Just when Barcelona fans thought their beloved club could not sink any deeper into the mud, Benfica humbled them 3-0 on Wednesday night.

The great Spanish side are a pitiful imitation of their former selves and manager Ronald Koeman appears to be hurtling towards the job centre.

Defeats by Bayern Munich and the Portuguese outfit have seen Barcelona lose their opening two Champions League games and they are rooted to the bottom of Group E.

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But there is still undoubted quality at the club and injured stars such as Sergio Aguero and Ousmane Dembele to come back in.

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So there remains a chance that Barcelona can keep their hopes of reaching the knockout stage alive, even it is a slim one.

It has been done before and fans of the Catalan side can take heart from the fact that in the Champions League's current format, nine teams have managed it since the 2003/04 season.

Here, Sportsmail takes a look at some of the heavy hitters to have taken a couple of early blows only to pick themselves back up off the canvas and qualify.

Inter Milan - 2006/07

When you look at this Inter Milan side on paper you can hardly believe they lost their first couple of group games.

Patrick Vieira, Javier Zanetti, Marco Materazzi, Luis Figo, Hernan Crespo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic were all dominant players for the Nerazzurri.

And they were an incredibly efficient outfit under Roberto Mancini in the league, strolling to the title with just one defeat all season.

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In Europe it was a different story. Sporting Lisbon edged a tight game 1-0 on opening night with Joao Moutinho, Nani and Miguel Veloso among the vibrant young stars to cause Inter problems.

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And they followed that up with a defeat at home against Bayern. The game was finely poised until the final ten minutes when the German giants struck twice through Claudio Pizarro and Lukas Podolski.

But four games and four wins on the trot against the weaker teams in the group -  Sporting and Spartak Moscow - saw Mancini's men advance with a game to spare.

They drew the away fixture with Bayern but heartbreakingly ended up going out of the competition on away goals against Valencia in the last 16.

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Marseille - 2010/11

Losing at home to Spartak Moscow was the worst possible start for the French club 11 years ago, especially with the likes of Andre-Pierre Gignac, Gabriel Heinze and Steve Mandanda in their squad.

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Didier Deschamps - France's future World Cup-winning manager - then presided over another defeat, this time against a stuttering Chelsea who scored through John Terry and a Nicolas Anelka penalty.

It was evident Deschamps' team were already on the ropes, but he managed to steady the ship, battering minnows Zilina with an aggregate score of 8-0 over the next two games.

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They then exacted revenge over Spartak in Russia. Loic Remy and Mathieu Valbuena were on the scoresheet that night and Marseille emphatically completed the turnaround by beating Chelsea in the final group game.

Deschamps' men were drawn against Manchester United in the last 16 and after drawing the first game 0-0, they went out by a solitary goal in a 2-1 defeat at Old Trafford.

A young Cesar Azpilicueta - who scored the own goal which handed Spartak victory on the first matchday - went on to be the player from that group to achieve the most by winning Europe's top prize at Chelsea.

His former Marseille team-mate Jordan Ayew is also still an important player for Crystal Palace, while Mandanda is still at the club after the briefest spell at Selhurst Park in 2016/17.

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Arsenal - 2015/16

The Gunners were just starting to begin their decline under Arsene Wenger but this was his last solid campaign by all accounts.

They finished second in the Premier League with the strong Spanish contingent of Mikel Arteta, Hector Bellerin and Santi Cazorla all influential while the British cohort of Aaron Ramsey, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott were also at the fore.

Olivier Giroud and the red hot Alexis Sanchez carried the main goalscoring threat, with Mesut Ozil in the form of his life behind them, ensuring they were top of the Premier League by the end of 2015.

But in the Champions League, they were behind the eight ball early on after losing at Dinamo Zagreb after Giroud was sent off.

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Matters then got even worse when Olympiacos - the other weaker team in the group - pulled off a remarkable win at the Emirates Stadium after exploiting an Arsenal defence which saw David Ospina and the defence as a whole struggle.

But a crucial win against Bayern Munich which set the Emirates into bedlam through Giroud's controversial opener and Ozil's late second steadied the ship.

They had little chance in the reverse fixture and were duly beaten 5-1 by the Bundesliga giants in November, but Wenger orchestrated two 3-0 victories at home to Zagreb and away at Olympiacos, with those late wins seeing the north London club through on superior goal difference.

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There was to be no journey deep into the latter stages of the competition as Barcelona battered Arsenal 5-1 on aggregate in the last 16.

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Tottenham - 2018/19

Not even the most optimistic Tottenham fan would have foreseen what was to come after Mauricio Pochettino's men failed to win any of their first three games.

It was a tricky group with Barcelona, Inter Milan and PSV but it seemed to be petering out into disappointment before a 2-1 win over the Dutch side was backed up by a 1-0 victory against Inter, both at Wembley.

Pochettino's side then held on for a point against Barcelona and arrived at the last 16 stage by the skin of their teeth.

Inter finished in third but had exactly the same goal difference, so Spurs progressed on head-to-head away goals.

The last-16 win over Borussia Dortmund announced Spurs as real contenders with Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen all major players.

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And who could forget the astonishing win over Manchester City, where five goals in the first 21 minutes of the second leg made it 3-3 on aggregate.

A controversial Fernando Llorente effort from a set piece then cancelled out Aguero's effort, leaving Spurs heading through on away goals going deep into injury time.

But the drama was not over, with a late, late VAR call bringing back Raheem Sterling's goal for a marginal offside.

The image of Pep Guardiola sinking to his knees will live long in the memory but the ride was not over yet for Spurs.

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Just when it seemed they were heading for the exit in the semi-final second-leg against Ajax, Lucas Moura scored one of the most important goals in the club's history to break Dutch hearts.

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  Emotional scenes at Camp Nou as Ansu Fati enjoys fairytale return to action for Barca Ansu Fati returned to action after 10 months injured and made an immediate impactThe 18-year-old had been sidelined for almost a year with a succession of knee problems after suffering an injury against Real Betis in November 2020.

It was an all-English final and relatively dull affair in the end against Liverpool but proved to be a stretch too far for the north London club. Jurgen Klopp's men, a year after losing against Real Madrid in the showpiece, lifted the trophy.

Barcelona would be the first club to win the Champions League having lost their first two group games this season.

Atalanta - 2019/20

Other unlikely qualifiers after two defeats*:

Werder Bremen - 2005/06 (last-16)

Lyon - 2007/08 (last 16)

Panathinaikos - 2008/09 (last 16)

Galatasaray - 2012/13 (quarter-final)

* To have made knockout stages in Champions League's current format since 2003/04

This was an astonishing turnaround and every neutral's favourite side managed to produce a startling late run for the knockout stages.

Manuel Gasperini's team conceded 11 goals in their first three group games, losing to Dynamo Zagreb, Shakhtar Donetsk and Manchester City.

They then drew at home against the English club, meaning the Italians had only picked up one point from their opening four games.

Remarkably, they still held out hope of qualifying and turned over both Zagreb and Shakhtar without that leaky defence conceding in the last two matches.

When the totals were tallied up, they leapfrogged the Ukrainian team by one point to tee up an entertaining knockout game against Valencia.

Neither side held back and it was Gasperini's swashbuckling approach that paid dividends.

A 4-1 win in Bergamo effectively decided the tie before the second leg but the 4-3 win away at the Mestalla will no doubt live long in the memory for fans of La Dea.

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Suárez before his reunion with Barça: "I believe in Karma" .
© supplied by Sofoot Suárez, before his reunion with Barça: "I believe in Karma" Attention to the return of stick. Latisieux in Championship and Ridiculous Champions League , FC Barcelona will address the shock against the atstretico of Madrid, Saturday (21h), with a low confidence capital. And they will certainly not be able to count on Luis Suárez to cheer them up. In the summer of 2020, the Uruguayan scorer had been pushed, without great care, towards the release of the Catalan club.

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