FC Barcelona are the first team mathematically through to the last sixteen of this season’s Champions League, and it’s been done with two games to spare!
Not only that, but that’s now a quite extraordinary fifteen seasons on trot that the Catalans have gone into the hat for the knockout stages – every single year since 2004/05, when Frank Rijkaard was on the bench has seen the team progress out of the group stages.
And for what is already a tournament record of eleven years in a row, Barça have finished top of their group. That tally could be extended to twelve this season. That has yet to be confirmed, but things are certainly looking very nice indeed at the moment!
The news actually came as a huge surprise to many, if not most, Barça fans, who had probably assumed that Icardi’s late equaliser at the Giuseppe Meazza meant there was still some work to be done to ensure mathematical qualification.
But no. As it stands, Barça have 10 points, Inter 7, Tottenham 4 and PSV just 1.
Hypothetically there could still be a three-way tie between Barça, Inter and Spurs on ten points each. This could only happen if Barça lose to both Spurs and PSV, Inter beat PSV and Spurs beat Inter.
But even if that unlikely, but not impossible, series of results should happen, Barça would still win the tie-break.
According to UEFA rules, there would be a ‘mini-league’ between the three tied teams (or what is the same, all results against PSV would be discounted).
Barça have already amassed seven points against Inter and Tottenham, while Spurs have none from their games against Barça and Inter. So, no matter what happens, it’s impossible for the Premiership side to surpass the Catalans.
If you’re still struggling to understand all that, don’t worry. Just celebrate. We’re through!
Barça will be learning who they will be meeting in the first knockout round next December 17 in Nyon. The first legs will be played on 12/13 or 19/20 February and the returns on 5/6 or 12/13 March, with the group winners enjoying home advantage in the return match.