Football

Despite draw, Barca hopeful of last-16 spot

Stalemate with Benfica leaves them likely to need a result at Bayern

Defender Ronald Araujo said Barcelona's chances of qualifying for the Champions League knockout stage are "complicated but not impossible" after they were held to a goalless home draw by Benfica yesterday morning (Singapore time).

The result leaves Barca second in Group E on seven points from five games, two ahead of third-placed Benfica, who host last-placed Dynamo Kiev in their final fixture, while the Spanish side will travel to leaders Bayern Munich - who have won all their five matches.

A win yesterday would have earned Barca qualification in Xavi Hernandez's second game in charge and despite producing a performance a world apart from their 3-0 loss in Lisbon in September, they could not find the winner.

Said Araujo: "We lacked a goal but we played a great game, the attitude was very good.

"We were able to look after their counter-attacks well. But we missed the goal that would have been the golden key in helping us qualify...

"We did what the coach asked and we played a good game, but this leaves a bitter taste in the mouth... It'll have to be against Bayern. That will be complicated but not impossible."

Looking ahead to Bayern, who beat Barca 3-0 at the Nou Camp in September, Xavi said he remained "optimistic" of getting a result in Munich.

He said: "What makes me most optimistic is seeing the team playing in this way.

"Playing like this we can compete with anyone. Seeing what I've seen (against Benfica), we can go to Munich and win."

That renewed sense of positivity at the Catalan club seemed clear as German goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen added: "Everyone sees the change with Xavi. We are all very plugged in. We have an idea of playing that is very difficult for the opponent to defend.

"We leave them very little space to mark us. This is good. With this attitude, we will win for sure."

Barca had good chances with Yusuf Demir hitting the woodwork in the first period before a second-half Frenkie de Jong header was well tipped over the bar by Benfica goalkeeper Odysseas Vlachodimos and Araujo was denied seven minutes from time by the offside flag.

But Benfica missed the best chance of the game when Haris Seferovic missed an open goal after dinking the ball past ter Stegen in the 93rd minute. His coach Jorge Jesus told CNN Portugal: "In 30 years as a coach, I've never seen anything like this."

Meanwhile, in the other Group B game, Bayern beat Dynamo 2-1 despite five of their players missing due to quarantine.

Football