So Barcelona lost 3-1 to Manchester City in a Champions League group stage match. Maybe it’s surprising, and it might be a big result for Pep Guardiola’s club, but in the big picture, it’s meaningless.
The results of the group stage don’t mean anything as long as you qualify, preferably finishing first. Barcelona need one more point to qualify, and are still first in the group, needing 4 points against Borussia Monchengladbach and Celtic combined. It’s hard to believe they won’t get it, but just to ease the worried minds around the world, here’s a rundown of their group stage finishes over the last 8 seasons.
2008-2009: The season the Messi and Guardiola myth was born. Barcelona won the Champions League for the third time in club history and first since 2009. They lost in the group stage when they were already in the next round, beaten 3-2 at home by Shakhtar Donetsk.
2009-2010: Barcelona fans still blame the Icelandic volcano for ruining their repeat. Whatever it was, they were stopped in the semifinal by Inter and Jose Mourinho. They lost at home 2-1 to Rubin Kazan on the third matchday. It didn’t stop them from finishing first in the group.
2010-2011: Arguably the best Barcelona team, winning the Champions League for the second time under Guardiola. Barcelona went undefeated in the group stage, winning four of six matches.
2011-2012: Besides a 2-2 draw at home with Milan, Barcelona were perfect in the group stage, and massive favorites to repeat as European champions. Alas, they ran into Chelsea and the Roberto Di Matteo bus, and lost in the semifinal.
2012-2013: Celtic famously beat Barcelona 2-1 in the group stage, which didn’t stop Barca from finishing first in the group. This was the season may say that “Tiki-Taka football” dies, as Bayern Munich crushed Barcelona 7-0 on aggregate in the semifinal.
2013-2014: Barcelona lost to Ajax in Amsterdam 2-1, a loss that didn’t stop them from finishing first. In 2014 Barcelona were stopped by Atletico Madrid in the quarterfinals, the first time since 2007 that Barcelona failed to reach the final four.
2014-2015: Barcelona and their Messi-Neymar-Suarez trio win the Champions League, a third title in seven seasons for Barcelona. They lost in the group stage once, beaten by PSG 3-2 in Paris. It didn’t make a big difference in the end.
2015-2016: Another year of being stopped by Atletico Madrid in the quarterfinal. Barcelona actually went undefeated in the group stage, winning four in six matches.
Conclusion? Barcelona lose a group stage match almost annually. It has nothing to do with how the season ends. In two of their three title campaigns, they lost in the group stage. They’ve went undefeated in the group stage three times, and only in one of those seasons they ended up lifting the trophy. In the words of Aaron Rodgers: R-E-L-A-X.