Barcelona squandered a serious opportunity to qualify for the UEFA Champions League knockout phases, leaving their fate hanging in the balance.
A win against Benfica would have guaranteed Barcelona second place in their group as it would have opened up a five-point gap over the Portuguese side. Instead, both teams contested a fairly eventful draw, which might now give the Lisbon side a realistic chance of progressing if they beat Dynamo Kyiv in the next matchday.
Barcelona will face Bayern Munich in their final game, which may not fill the club’s fanbase with too much optimism considering the result at home on Matchday 1. If they are to lose that clash against the Bavarians and Benfica get a win over Dynamo Kyiv, then the Blaugrana will be staring at an unthinkable relegation to the Europa League.
Since Xavi took over, there has been a sense of optimism surrounding Barcelona. However, they are yet to assert dominance in games, as demonstrated against Benfica. Barcelona were the superior side in the contest, although without really creating great chances, the Portuguese side always fancied a chance to get the point. Here’s how Barcelona players fared against Benfica in their draw at Camp Nou.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen: 7/10
A clean sheet might be the reward for his excellent display in the box. Ter Stegen made some smart saves, with the one to deny Roman Yaremchuk in the first half standing out. The Barcelona no. 1 was kept busier than usual in the second period, although he kept a tight lid on things.
Ronald Araujo: 7/10
Araujo looked very comfortable and adventurous in a back three. He was excellent in possession while showing defensive solidity. He had a goal ruled out for offside, which would have been rewarding for his overall display.
Gerard Pique: 6.5/10
Pique won ten aerial duels in the game, which showed how much pressure Benfica put him under. The veteran dealt with the threat of Yaremchuk well and looked steady in the back three.
Clement Lenglet: 6.5/10
Lenglet looked comfortable in the game and defended with resilience. Put under less pressure due to Pique and Araujo’s presence, the Frenchman could focus more on his distribution. He also made five recoveries during the game.
Jordi Alba: 6/10
Xavi wanted to experiment using Alba’s skills as an attacking outlet from the left wing-back position. The Spaniard made some effective darting runs into the box and had a decent effort saved in the first period. He needs to adapt to this role well if the manager wishes to continue with the system and improve final deliveries.
Yusuf Demir: 7/10
Xavi used Demir as a right wing-back, and the youngster had a lively game. The player made a few forays into the box and hit a shot on the bar. His displays look promising, and maybe Barcelona have found another young gem in him.
❗Demir hits the bar! pic.twitter.com/re0NrPSyLs
— FC Barcelona Fans Nation (@fcbfn_live) November 23, 2021
Sergio Busquets: 7/10
While there were doubts over his participation, Busquets was at his tidy best, making every moment in possession count. He kept distributing the ball well and kept things ticking while making plenty of defensive contributions, including seven ball recoveries.
Frenkie de Jong: 6.5/10
Frenkie de Jong kept his team’s intensity high in the first half. He faded off a bit in the second period and was ineffective in whatever he was trying to do.
Nico Gonzalez: 7/10
Gonzalez proved terrific in an attacking role behind the striker, with some intensity unmatched by his colleagues. He was also solid defensively, helping out with tidying work. He made four key passes to show his attacking quality.
Gavi showed his versatile nature yet again, with some brilliant play in the attacking third. He was sharp and creative whenever he got the ball and it looks like he will be an important part of Xavi’s plans. Incredibly, he made four tackles during the game.
Memphis Depay: 4/10
We had billed Depay to be the Player to Watch in the build-up, but he utterly disappointed while leading the line. The Dutchman kept dropping deep to link play, and he was dreadful when it came to matters in the final third.
Ousmane Dembele: 7/10
Xavi singing Dembele's praises. Says he's grateful he took risk of playing tonight when not 100 percent. Also says he "surprises" you as a person. "He's different to what you think. We hope he renews his contract."
— Samuel Marsden (@samuelmarsden) November 23, 2021
A surprise name on the bench given his fitness status. Dembele proved worthy of being allowed to play as a substitute. He turned out to be the most creative player on the pitch after his arrival and created chances in plenty for his teammates, who were sloppy in their finishing. He could have been a game-changer here if others were clinical enough with his opportunities.
Sergino Dest: 5/10
Dest slotted in well into attacking the ball as Barcelona desperately looked for the winning goal.
Eric Garcia: 5/10
Garcia was sent on to shore up the backline and add more security against a late Benfica counter or any other form of attack.