Matteo Gabbia scored his first goal for Milan as they thrashed Dinamo Zagreb 4-0 to move just a point away from the Champions League round of 16.

Chelsea's victory at Salzburg earlier on Tuesday gave Stefano Pioli's side the chance to go second in Group E and they grasped that opportunity with both hands.

Gabbia put them in front with a first-half header and they ran away with it in the second half, with Rafael Leao doubling their lead before Olivier Giroud added a third from the penalty spot.

Robert Ljubicic's bizarre own goal summed up Dinamo's night as their hopes of qualifying were emphatically ended, while Milan only need to avoid defeat in a decisive last group match against Salzburg next week to advance.

Simon Kjaer and Charles De Ketelaere had goal-bound shots blocked in a bright start from Milan, before Gabbia came to the rescue by nodding away a Mislav Orsic header that was looping in.

Dominik Livakovic palmed away a Giroud header and Josip Misic did superbly to get in the way of a shot from Ante Rebic that looked to be heading for the back of the net, but the Serie A champions were in front 39 minutes in.

The opening goal came from an unlikely source, as Gabbia punished slack defending by diving to head home a whipped Sandro Tonali free-kick from close range.

Leao gave Milan breathing space five minutes into the second half, showing great pace to drive into the penalty area from the left all too easily and capitalise on more poor defending with a clinical right-foot finish.

Milan were cruising and they had a third goal just before the hour mark, when Ljubicic upended Tonali and Giroud's spot-kick found the top-left corner.

Things went from bad to worse for Ljubicic when Giroud failed to make contact with the livewire Leao's cutback and the ball struck the midfielder on the shoulder before flying into the back of his own net.

Manchester City sealed their Champions League progress as group winners despite Riyad Mahrez missing a penalty and Erling Haaland being kept quiet on his return to Borussia Dortmund in a 0-0 draw.

Pep Guardiola's rode their luck at times on Tuesday and also wasted a glorious chance to claim victory at Signal Iduna Park, but they always knew a point would be enough to win Group G.

That did not always look a given, though. City could not handle Karim Adeyemi before half-time, the young forward teeing up team-mates three times and also missing a presentable chance of his own.

The away side looked brighter after Haaland's half-time withdrawal, but the Norwegian surely would have taken the penalty that Mahrez had saved; it had no bearing on City's main objective, however.

City's first fortunate escape came as Dortmund threatened in the 16th minute, Adeyemi hitting a feeble effort at Stefan Ortega after being released into the right side of the box.

He showed greater composure in a similar scenario a few moments later, opting to pass across the area to Giovanni Reyna, but the American's eventual shot was tame.

More good work from Adeyemi went unrewarded just past the half-hour mark, with Youssoufa Moukoko inexplicably missing the target from close range after latching on to a square pass.

Guardiola responded to City's lack of control by bringing Bernardo Silva on for Haaland.

The change had the desired effect, but it meant the lethal Haaland was unavailable for penalty duties after Emre Can clumsily fouled Mahrez, whose subsequent spot-kick was saved by Gregor Kobel.

A Julian Alvarez snapshot was also parried by Kobel, who ensured Dortmund held on to the point that takes them through.

 

Real Madrid missed the chance to progress as Champions League Group F winners after RB Leipzig closed on the knockout stages with a 3-1 home win over the European champions.

A memorable victory ensured Marco Rose's side will now advance on the final matchday if they avoid defeat at third-placed Shakhtar Donetsk, while Madrid – facing Celtic at home – will top the group if they match Leipzig's result.

Josko Gvardiol and Christopher Nkunku struck in the opening 18 minutes on Tuesday before Vinicius Junior reduced the deficit, but Madrid struggled without Federico Valverde, Luka Modric and Karim Benzema.

Madrid so often produced late drama in last season's European success, yet Rodrygo's penalty was not enough to rescue a result as Leipzig substitute Timo Werner had already stretched the home lead further.

An acrobatic Andre Silva flick from Dominik Szoboszlai's inswinging corner forced a smart Thibaut Courtois save after 13 minutes, only for the unmarked Gvardiol to head in the rebound.

Nkunku whipped wide when Courtois inexplicably raced out of his area, but the forward made amends shortly after as he smashed a left-footed effort in off the underside of the crossbar.

Rodrygo was thwarted by a fine Janis Blaswich stop, yet the Leipzig goalkeeper was powerless to stop Vinicius heading in Marco Asensio's right-wing centre to pull a goal back.

Vinicius spurned a glorious opportunity to equalise in the closing stages as he poked wide with just Blaswich to beat, and Werner made the winger pay as he tapped home Mohamed Simakan's drilled cross.

That goal meant Rodrygo's late strike from the penalty spot was a mere consolation after he was felled by Nkunku.

 

Juventus were condemned to a humiliating Champions League exit by a 4-3 loss at Benfica on Wednesday, as Rafa Silva's brace helped the outstanding hosts seal their own place in the last 16. 

Massimiliano Allegri's team arrived at the Estadio da Luz requiring a win to stay in contention in Group C, but were distinctly second-best after Dusan Vlahovic cancelled out Antonio Silva's opener. 

Benfica stormed into a 3-1 lead by the halfway mark as Rafa added to Joao Mario's penalty with a glorious backheel, and the winger doubled up with another wonderful goal after the break. 

Late efforts from Arkadiusz Milik and Weston McKennie ensured a grandstand finish, but it was too little, too late for Juventus as Roger Schmidt's men held firm.

It came as no surprise when Juventus fell behind after starting slowly, as the 18-year-old Silva met Enzo Fernandes' inviting cross with a glancing header to beat Wojciech Szczesny after 17 minutes.

The visitors levelled against the run of play when a VAR review overturned an offside call against Vlahovic four minutes later, but there was to be no such reprieve when Juan Cuadrado clumsily handled in his own area with 28 minutes gone.

Joao Mario picked out the top-left corner from the spot to re-establish Benfica's lead, then turned provider to tee up Rafa's flicked finish seven minutes later as the hosts threatened to run riot.

Rafa needed just five minutes to double his tally after the restart, dinking another cultured finish beyond Szczesny after latching onto Alejandro Grimaldo's throughball.

Juventus then gave themselves hope with a quickfire double; first with Milik volleying home Samuel Iling-Junior's cross before McKennie converted following a goalmouth scramble with 11 minutes remaining.

However, Benfica missed the best chance of an end-to-end finish when Rafa crashed a shot against the post, leaving the hosts to celebrate a famous win.

Julian Nagelsmann has challenged Bayern Munich to "send a message" to their Champions League rivals by completing a group-stage double over Barcelona.

Hosts Barcelona are staring at elimination ahead of Wednesday's Group C clash at Camp Nou, where even victory might not be enough to keep them in the hunt for a last-16 spot – they need Viktoria Plzen to cause a shock against Inter in the other group game.

Bayern, however, are determined to take all three points, and head coach Nagelsmann said on the eve of the game his players should ignore the issues affecting their opposition.

"We're already through to the next round," he said. "To be honest, it's not important to me who else gets through. The only thing that matters to me is that we finish first.

"We have nothing against Barca, but we have a passion for winning. If you want to win the Champions League, you have to send a message to your opponents. Tomorrow will be an opportunity to do exactly that."

Lucas Hernandez and Leroy Sane scored when Bayern beat Barcelona 2-0 at the Allianz Arena six weeks ago, after the Bundesliga champions somehow kept out the LaLiga side in the first half.

Nagelsmann reckoned Barcelona could have been 3-0 up by the break in that game, but their lack of a clinical finish proved costly.

By taking just one point from two games against Inter since, the Catalans are careering towards elimination from the top tier and a heavy landing in the Europa League.

Nagelsmann laughed off an airport arrival video showing Thomas Muller saying he and Bayern were coming for Robert Lewandowski, the striker who left the Germans for Barcelona after a 50-goal 2021-22 season.

Nagelsmann said Muller and Lewandowski have "a great connection" and stressed how he was pleased, going by Instagram posts, that Lewandowski appears to be content with life at Barcelona.

"I saw he scored a lot of goals, so I think he's happy," Nagelsmann said.

"I'm always happy when people I've worked with are happy in their lives, and it looks like he is by his posts. We are happy too, so it's all good."

Lewandowski has managed 17 goals in 15 games for Barcelona so far. Five of those goals have come in the Champions League, a hat-trick against Viktoria Plzen and two late on in the 3-3 Camp Nou draw with Inter.

As Barcelona look like heading out of the top-tier competition, Nagelsmann at least had praise for the "extreme" change he has seen at the club in recent times.

"It's always good to improve your squad and Barcelona did that. They have a great squad," said the Bayern boss. "It's a massive squad with a lot of success on the European stage and national level.

"They are one of the most attractive teams to watch. I'm not sure how it will affect them financially in the event of an exit."

Jurgen Klopp bemoaned injury problems for hampering Liverpool's consistency as the Reds manager confirmed Thiago Alcantara will miss Wednesday's visit to Ajax.

Liverpool have underwhelmed this season thus far, sitting eighth in the Premier League and 12 points behind leaders Arsenal after falling to a disappointing 1-0 defeat at Nottingham Forest.

However, despite a 4-1 hammering at Napoli on matchday one in the Champions League, the Reds could still progress to the knockout stages with a game to spare if they avoid defeat at Ajax.

Liverpool will head to Amsterdam without Thiago to call upon, though, as injury issues continue to frustrate Klopp.

"Thiago is still out, I don't know if he will be fit for the weekend. [Ibrahima] Konate is here and ready to play minutes, I would say," Klopp said.

"When you want it really clicking you need consistency in the line-up and we haven't had that.

"When you have [lots of injuries], players who should be rested have to play and players come back from injuries too early. That's tricky. That situation isn't sorted overnight.

"We've played really well a couple of times but it's not as if we have been without problems. We win a game then lose two players and another who can't play for more than 20 minutes. Tomorrow we have enough players with us."

Liverpool will welcome back Darwin Nunez for the trip to Ajax, though, as Klopp aims to progress to the Champions League stages with the Reds for a record sixth straight time.

Ajax must win to keep their hopes alive in the competition, but they have lost their last three Champions League matches against Liverpool, only enduring longer such runs against Juventus (four) and Real Madrid (seven).

Klopp's side battled past Alfred Schreuder's team in the reverse fixture, courtesy of a late Joel Matip winner, and the German acknowledged the difficult challenge that awaits at Johan Cruijff Arena.

"We played a good home game against Ajax. That's a bit like our season – we play really good then the opponent scores with their first chance," Klopp added.

"Ajax are a dangerous opponent and that's the team we play for. It would be great [to qualify early] but I can't sit here and tell you how I feel because we haven't done it.

"After our start in the group stage, people didn't think it was likely to happen. But now it can happen, and we have to close the group."

Kai Havertz fired Chelsea through to the Champions League last-16 stage as his second-half strike secured a hard-fought 2-1 victory against Salzburg.

Mateo Kovacic's first-half effort gave the Blues the lead, but the hosts hit back swiftly in the second half, Junior Adamu capping off a fine counter-attack.

Goalkeeper Philipp Kohn was called upon in both halves to keep the visitors at bay but could do nothing with Havertz's winning effort, as the Germany international drilled in to end Salzburg's 40-game unbeaten home run.

Victory means Chelsea's spot in the knockout stages is confirmed, while Graham Potter's side could still be confirmed as group winners if Dinamo Zagreb fail to beat Milan in the Croatian capital.

Opportunities were few and far between until Chelsea took the lead after 22 minutes, Kovacic drilling a shot into the top-left corner after the ball fell kindly to him just outside the area.

Three minutes after the break, Salzburg equalised on the counter as Maximilian Wober's superb cross-field pass found Adamu and the 21-year-old jabbed a first-time finish past Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Adamu then had a major impact at the other end, superbly clearing Jorginho's header off the line to prevent the visitors swiftly retaking the lead.

There was no denying Havertz three minutes after the hour mark, however, as he collected Christian Pulisic's pass just outside the box and fired home a fine finish in off the left post to leave Kohn helpless.

The hosts had chances for an equaliser, notably with Thiago Silva needing to be alert to clear Strahinja Pavlovic's header off the line as the Chelsea defence stood firm.

Virgil van Dijk urged Liverpool to remember "how good we are" as the Reds look to bounce back from a disappointing defeat at Nottingham Forest when they travel to Ajax on Wednesday.

Jurgen Klopp's side recorded back-to-back Premier League wins over West Ham and the in-form Manchester City, but fell to a surprise 1-0 defeat at strugglers Forest on Saturday.

The narrow loss, in which Liverpool spurned numerous chances, summarised what has been an underwhelming season thus far for the Reds, who are eighth in the league and 12 points behind leaders Arsenal.

However, Liverpool could still secure Champions League knockout football with a game to spare if they avoid defeat at Ajax, with Van Dijk issuing a reminder to his team-mates over their qualities.

"What the manager said after the game, we only had ourselves to blame, we had the chances to score and another day they will go in," the Netherlands international said. 

"It was a very intense and difficult week, with a fantastic win against City and a difficult one against West Ham. Then an away game, early kick-off against Forest, who were struggling before our game.

"We tried everything but we didn't win; we know our performances, in general, have to be as consistent as they were [in previous seasons], that's what we are trying to do.

"We are trying to sort it and do everything in our power, that's what we have to do, so that's our situation. We shouldn't forget how good we are, keep the confidence and try to be consistent again."

While Alfred Schreuder's side dropped five points in two matches either side of the last international break, they have returned to form in recent weeks to open a four-point lead at the Eredivisie summit.

Van Dijk acknowledged the tough task that awaits Liverpool, who have won their last three Champions League matches against Ajax, as his side prepare to visit Amsterdam.

"They don't have the best moment also, but I know how it can be here on a Champions League night and that is something we are prepared for," the centre-back added.

"We have to match them and do even more – it will be interesting. We're not coming here to defend or draw, we want to win the game, show our qualities and make sure we go through tomorrow.

"They will know how tough it will be, we have to be confident and enjoy the occasion. Everyone wants to be at this level."

Diego Simeone has backed Atletico Madrid to thrive under pressure in Wednesday's crucial Champions League meeting with Bayer Leverkusen.

Atletico have reached at least the last 16 in each of their previous four Champions League campaigns, but that run could be halted when they welcome Xabi Alonso's side to the Civitas Metropolitano.

Having failed to score in their last three Champions League games, Atletico will be eliminated from the competition if they fail to win and Porto beat Group B leaders Club Brugge.

However, Simeone has no concerns about his players' ability to handle the occasion.

"They are used to it, they know the demands we have," Simeone said at Tuesday's pre-match news conference.

"They are no different from the ones we always have in LaLiga, the cup or the competition that we have in front of us. 

"We need to win. All that pressure will be generated in the best way to hurt the rival. I feel that the team is growing, and it's a pleasure; hopefully it can be seen tomorrow."

Atletico have never failed to score in four consecutive Champions League games under Simeone, only doing so under Abel Resino between March and October 2009.

Meanwhile, Wednesday's match features the two sides who have underperformed their expected goals (xG) totals by the widest in the Champions League this season. Atletico have scored twice from chances amounting to 6.3 xG, while Leverkusen have netted the same number from 6.7 xG.

Simeone's team have faced heavy criticism for their attacking failings this season, but winger Yannick Carrasco expects them to come good. 

"It's true that there are games that don't go the way we want, but we have a good team, we follow the coach's orders 100 per cent, and we work hard," Carrasco said.

"I think it's normal for the fans, as we have a good squad and a good team, to expect us to win every game, but it's not like that in football. Surely tomorrow is a final for all of us. It's very important."

Eric Garcia says he is not affected by criticism that "is lacking respect" ahead of Barcelona's Champions League showdown with Barcelona on Wednesday.

The Spain defender has come under fire for his performances in a 3-3 draw with Inter and the 3-1 Clasico loss at Real Madrid.

Garcia was dropped to the bench for a 3-0 LaLiga defeat of Villarreal before returning to the starting line-up in a 4-0 rout of Athletic Bilbao at Camp Nou on Sunday.

Barca head coach Xavi backed the centre-back after the loss to Madrid, stating: "For me, Eric is a guarantee."

The 21-year-old, who returned to Camp Nou after his Manchester City contract expired last year, says he is not bothered about harsh assessments of his credentials.

"Obviously I gave the penalty away against Madrid, and against Inter I could have been better," Garcia said on the eve of the clash with Bundesliga champions Bayern.

"I am 21, I have room to improve. The criticism, which is lacking respect, does not concern me. I accept constructive criticism. I know when I play well and when I don't. I have people around me that tell me.

"As for the rest, people can say what they want, but it does not affect me."

Even a win over Group C leaders Bayern may not keep alive Barca's chances of qualifying for the round of 16, with second-placed Inter sure to advance if they beat Viktoria Plzen.

Barcelona should expect no Champions League favours from Bayern Munich, according to the Bavarians' chief executive Oliver Kahn, who says his team will give nothing away in their bid to top Group C.

Bayern have already secured their place in the competition's last 16 ahead of Wednesday's trip to Camp Nou, where they could condemn Barca to a humiliating early exit.

Having failed to beat Inter in back-to-back meetings earlier this month, the Blaugrana are on the verge of suffering successive group-stage eliminations from the Champions League for just the second time (also in 1997-98 and 1998-99).

Bayern sealed Barca's European fate last season with a 3-0 win over Xavi's side at the Allianz Arena, and Kahn says they are highly motivated to repeat the trick.

"We have nothing to give away in Barcelona. We want to achieve our goal and finish first in the group," Kahn told reporters on Tuesday.

"It is the strongest group, someone had to pay; Bayern, Inter or Barcelona. It's not over yet. We have the utmost respect for Barcelona. 

"The performances they show in the league are strong, they're outstanding. It is always a very important match between two great teams in Europe."

Bayern have won each of their last five Champions League meetings with Barca, and their desire to continue that run will likely have been increased by Robert Lewandowski's acrimonious move to Camp Nou in July.

Leon Goretzka recently said Lewandowski had been "spoiled" by Bayern's Champions League consistency during his time in Germany, but Kahn refused to repeat the midfielder's taunts.

"If you look at FC Bayern and the results in the Champions League in recent years, it's a success story, no question. [We've] always qualified for at least the round of 16," Kahn said.

"I don't know what Robert thinks about it – you'll have to ask him yourself."

Meanwhile, Kahn offered an update on the fitness of goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, who is thought to be close to a return following a spell on the sidelines with a shoulder injury.

"With him, you just have to wait and see how things develop from day to day," former keeper Kahn added. "It's a painful story, but I don't think it's anything that serious. I think he should be ready again soon."

Tottenham boss Antonio Conte is "concentrated on the present" ahead of his team's Champions League clash against Sporting CP, saying any discussions about his long-term future must wait.

Back-to-back defeats in the Premier League to Manchester United and Newcastle United have knocked the north London side out of their rhythm.

It is three league defeats in the last five for Tottenham after going unbeaten in their opening seven games, and the loss of domestic league form comes alongside uncertainty around Conte's future.

The Italian head coach, appointed last November, has yet to sign a new deal and his contract is due to expire at the end of the season.

Asked about being prepared to stay for the long haul, Conte said at Tuesday's press conference: "This is a topic we will go to face at the club at the right moment.

"I think in this moment we have to be concentrated and focused on the present and to try to do our best.

"This season will be much more difficult than last season, because after the transfer market you have seen that many, many teams have improved a lot. You have to face a lot of big, big teams.

"For sure, it will be the time to speak to the club, at the right time, to understand what is the best solution for us."

As for whether his Spurs side remain in transition, Conte said: "Since November now and after one year I understand a lot of things that at the first moment for me were really difficult to understand.

"Now I am going into the Tottenham world, and I'm understanding well what is our situation, what is our position, and what is our starting point. How long is the path to be competitive and to fight for something important.

"Now, for sure, my knowledge about Tottenham, I have more, it is more complete, and for this reason I would be prepared at the moment that we are going to speak with the club to understand what is best for the future.

"But for now we have to focus on the present because we want to do our best in the present. My desire, my will, is with my players to do my best. We have to do everything to give satisfaction to our fans. This must be the best aspiration for everybody, then for the other situation we'll see at the right moment."

While domestic form is cause for concern, Spurs have fared better in the Champions League and victory against Sporting on Wednesday would seal their spot in the last 16, which Conte signalled as being hugely significant.

"It is important for everybody. It is important for the club, for the fans, for everybody. We are talking about a big, big competition," he said.

"The most important [competition] in Europe and for this reason everybody has great desire, great will to go into the next round and especially because we want to show we deserve it."

Simone Inzaghi is optimistic Inter can keep hold of Milan Skriniar as they look to clinch a Champions League last-16 spot and eliminate Barcelona.

Slovakian defender Skriniar was wanted by Paris Saint-Germain during the last transfer window, and they could return to sign him on a free transfer next year.

That is because Skriniar's contract with Inter expires after this season, but head coach Inzaghi is backing club officials to negotiate an extension before then.

It has been suggested that in order to do a deal, Inter might need the financial boost a run in the Champions League can provide.

Should Inter beat Viktoria Plzen on Wednesday at San Siro, that would assure the Serie A giants of a last-16 place while ending Barcelona's hopes of reaching the knock-out phase.

Asked about the Skriniar situation, Inzaghi said: "I am fortunate to have excellent directors who are already thinking about this.

"We have other players in the same situation, I hope everything can be resolved.

"Skriniar is clearly improving, he resumed his summer training late after an injury with the national team. He is showing clear improvement, like the whole team ".

Romelu Lukaku is close to a first-team return after almost two months on the sidelines with a thigh injury, as he looks to get fit and match sharp in time for Belgium's World Cup campaign.

Inzaghi said Lukaku, who is on loan from Chelsea, "is working with great enthusiasm" and close to featuring again in the first team.

The World Cup is inevitably on the minds of many, and Inzaghi pointed to expecting seven players from his squad to be involved in the Qatar 2022 finals.

Marcel Brozovic, the Croatian midfielder is among those, and like Lukaku he has been sidelined with thigh trouble of late.

"But I see all the others working well," Inzaghi said. "They all think about Inter and are working hard, also to be ready when they go to the World Cup."

For now, Inter are focused on escaping what was considered a 'group of death' when the draw was made, with German champions Bayern Munich the other side involved.

Bayern have raced away at the top of the group, as expected, and Inter qualifying for the next round ahead of Barcelona would register as a surprise to many.

"Qualification was a very distant thing in everyone's mind on the day of the draw, except for me and my players who have always worked for this," Inzaghi said.

"We hope to give great satisfaction to the fans and to the club. We know how much we have worked in these four games: we have to show that we are a great team."

Xavi is refusing to give up hope of reaching the knockout stages of the Champions League, even if he accepts his side face an almighty challenge to advance to the last 16.

Barca face being eliminated from the competition in the group stage in successive seasons heading into Wednesday's home tie with Bayern Munich.

Xavi's side will be unable to progress should they lose or if Inter beat bottom side Viktoria Plzen, while they will also be eliminated should both games be drawn.

The Catalan giants will be aware of their fate ahead of kick-off at Camp Nou as Inter host Plzen earlier in the day, but Xavi insists that result will not impact his team selection.

"We will all watch the game together in the locker room," Xavi said at Tuesday's pre-match news conference. "Regardless of what happens, we want to show we can compete.

"I already decided on the line-up on Monday, except for any injuries that occur. This is all regardless of what happens in the Inter game."

Barca's dramatic 3-3 draw with Inter two weeks ago effectively leaves them needing wins over Bayern and Plzen, while requiring favours elsewhere.

They have lost nine of their 12 Champions League games against next opponents Bayern, who are already through to the last 16, including the past five in a row.

Indeed, only Bayern themselves against Real Madrid (10) have lost more games against a single opponent in the history of the Champions League.

"It's not so much that we require a miracle, because we have a slight bit of hope," Xavi said. "We know it doesn't all depend on us, making it an uncomfortable situation.

"But we know that regardless of what happens in Milan, we face an important match. We have to beat Bayern to show we can compete at this level.

"While there is a little hope we must not lose it. We have done our homework. This competition is being cruel to us, but it's the reality we face."

Jose Mourinho last week labelled clubs that drop into the Europa League in the next round as a result of finishing third in their Champions League group as "failed sharks".

However, when asked for his response to Roma head coach Mourinho's remarks, Xavi said: "There's nothing to answer. If we have to play in that competition, we will compete.

"The [Europa League] is not something we're thinking about yet but if we do compete in that competition we'll go out and fight like lions to win it."

Barcelona have lost their past two home games against German opponents in Europe – against Bayern and Eintracht Frankfurt – but have never previously lost three in a row.

As is always the case when Barcelona fall short in the Champions League, the local media reaction was unforgiving.

"On the brink of disaster," screamed the Diario AS front page. Barcelona were hurtling towards "the abyss", according to L'Esportiu. 

Robert Lewandowski's 92nd-minute equaliser may have rescued a point in a 3-3 draw with Inter last time out in the competition, but it was not enough. 

Having suffered a 1-0 defeat at San Siro one week earlier, the result left the Blaugrana staring at an early Champions League exit.

Xavi acknowledged Barca did not deserve to progress following their madcap draw with the Nerazzurri, but that will be no consolation to their hierarchy should they bow out of the competition on Wednesday.

As Barca – just a few weeks on from a huge transfer spree and a positive start in LaLiga – prepare to host Bayern Munich in a do-or-die clash, Stats Perform examines the potential ramifications of yet another European failure.

Tracing Barca's Champions League woes as old foes visit 

Football has a funny way of throwing up narratives. Surely no team has been responsible for causing Barca greater embarrassment than Bayern, who have won nine of their 12 Champions League meetings with the Catalan giants (D1 L2).

Among those victories, of course, was an 8-2 humiliation of Quique Setien's team in the 2019-20 quarter-finals, an historic result that hastened Lionel Messi's attempts to quit Camp Nou that year.

Bayern also appeared to take great joy in crushing Barca last season, preventing Xavi's men from reaching the last 16 for the first time since 2003-04 (when they were absent from the competition entirely) by thrashing them 3-0 in a match with no consequences for the Bavarians.

The German side are already assured of their own last-16 spot again ahead of Wednesday's match, but they will no doubt be keen to deal another blow to their old rivals – particularly after the less-than-amicable departure of Lewandowski in July. 

While Bayern's domestic dominance makes their obsession with Champions League success understandable, Barca have suffered extensively after failing to meet lofty European aims of late.

Barca are looking to avoid suffering consecutive group-stage eliminations for just the second time in the competition, having previously crashed out at this stage in both 1997-98 and 1998-99, but their Champions League woes stretch back beyond last season.

Since lifting the trophy in 2015, Barca have posted four quarter-final exits and one last-16 elimination, as well as an incredible collapse against Liverpool in their one semi-final appearance.

Meanwhile, Barca have been beaten by three or more goals on 10 separate occasions in their past seven Champions League campaigns, having not lost by such a margin in their previous three seasons in the competition.

For a club who are in a state of perpetual crisis despite a run of five league titles in seven seasons between 2012-13 and 2018-19, the Champions League clearly holds special importance, which has only been heightened by recent off-pitch events.

The view from the boardroom: Why qualification matters for Laporta 

The economic 'levers' pulled by Joan Laporta were the talk of the continent a couple of months ago, with Barca spending in excess of €150million on Lewandowski, Jules Kounde and Raphinha, as well as attracting four high-profile free agents.

That spree was set against a backdrop of continued economic fears, with Barca accused of gambling their future to finance a short-term rebuild.

The sales of 10 per cent of their future LaLiga broadcasting rights and 49 per cent of their in-house production company Barca Studios were required in order for the Blaugrana to meet the division's salary limits – and even that was not enough to prevent director of football Mateu Alemany having to contribute his own money to ensure Kounde's registration.

The identity of their marquee addition Lewandowski, meanwhile, raises further questions. 

The Poland international may remain his indomitable self, following up a return of 35 goals in his final Bundesliga season with Bayern by scoring 12 in his first 11 outings in LaLiga, but handing a four-year contract to a player who turned 34 in August gave an idea of where Barca's priorities lie.

It is within this context that Laporta's view of the Blaugrana's European failings must be examined.

Reports have suggested Laporta was "furious" with Barca's inability to beat Inter, and the president's frustrations were on display when he stormed into the officials' changing room following their Clasico defeat to Real Madrid four days later, earning himself a fine.

It is thought Barca have budgeted for a run to the Champions League's last eight as a minimum this season, and failing to meet that objective would reportedly cost them €20m.

With Barca and Madrid seemingly fighting a losing battle in their attempts to convince Europe's other giants to back a revival of the Super League, the loss of further revenue is unlikely to go down well in the Camp Nou boardroom.

Could Xavi pay for Laporta's approach?

While Xavi's predecessor Ronald Koeman lost his job with Barca ninth in LaLiga, overseeing the club's worst ever start to a Champions League campaign hardly helped his cause, with a 3-0 loss at Benfica last September representing a watershed moment for the Dutchman.

Xavi has goodwill in the bank after leading Barca to second in LaLiga last term, but the former midfielder recently acknowledged a European exit would deal a blow to his own job prospects.

Indeed, resounding league wins over Villarreal and Athletic Bilbao have done little to lift the mood at Camp Nou, demonstrating a shift in expectations Xavi must handle.

Signing Lewandowski, who has 91 Champions League goals to his name, has also ensured Xavi has few excuses, at odds with Koeman's patched-up, Messi-less side.

Whether fair or not, Xavi is now perceived to have the players to compete with sides like Bayern; failure to do so would undoubtedly prompt questions of both the coach and the board.

Xavi may have restored Barca's status as domestic title contenders, but as ever in Catalonia, past European glories cast a long shadow.

If Xavi oversees another continental failure, he may just pay for Laporta's approach.

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