“Our main objective is to return to the Champions League next year, and this competition is another opportunity to achieve that. There are two ways to get there, either through La Liga or through the Europa League, and we will take our chance. It’s not the Champions League, that’s for sure, but it’s now our reality. So we are going to play this competition thoroughly. I am very motivated, and the players too. The Europa League is not D3! There are great teams like Sevilla, Villarreal, Naples… Against Naples, it will be a C1-level confrontation. released the FC Barcelona coach at a press conference as the Catalan club challenges Napoli this Thursday on behalf of the play-offs. After failing in third place in their Champions League group far behind Bayern Munich and just behind Benfica, the Catalan club will have to show seriousness and application to finally hope to win this competition. In its history, the culé club has never won the Europa League, called UEFA Cup in the past, despite 11 appearances. The latest, Xavi was there and he knows very well that the road to victory will be very hard. Especially since now this trophy offers the possibility of playing in the group stage of the Champions League, which is the main objective of the Catalans.
Ambitious, FC Barcelona will nevertheless have to do better than in the past. The club’s last participation dates back to the 2003/2004 season after finishing sixth in La Liga the previous season. FC Barcelona, where the young Xavi officiated, had started the competition well by crushing the Slovaks of Matador Puchov (9-1 on aggregate) then doing the job against the Greeks of Panionos (5-0 on aggregate) and the Danes of Brøndby ( 3-1 on aggregate). However, the first real obstacle had been fatal after a 1-0 loss against Celtic Glasgow followed by a 0-0 draw. A real failure to stop at the stage of the round of 16. Anyway, this competition has often played tricks on the Catalans who have experienced real fiascos. For its first participation in the UEFA Cup during the 1972-1973 edition, FC Barcelona did not last long. Beginning at the stage of the 32nd finals, the Catalan club inherited from the start a big piece with FC Porto. A double confrontation which turned to the advantage of the Lusitanians and which quickly sounded the death knell for Catalan hopes (3-1 and 1-0). During the next edition in 1973-1974, FC Barcelona will experience a similar misadventure. Falling against a French club, OGC Nice at the stage of the 32nd final once again, the Catalans largely lost against the Aiglons (3-0) and despite a reaction to the return match (2-0) it did not enough.
FC Barcelona are used to losing against the future winner
It is therefore necessary to wait for the third participation of the Catalans during the 1975-1976 season to see them pass a round in the UEFA Cup. However, it got off to a bad start with a 1-0 loss in the first leg against the Greeks of PAOK Salonika, but the big 6-1 victory in the return allowed the Catalans to go further and finally offer themselves a nice course. Atomizing Lazio (3-0 and 4-0) then dominating the Hungarians of Vasas (3-1 and 1-0), the Blaugranas offered Levski Sofia (victory 4-0 then defeat 5-4) to reach the semi-finals. The great adventure ended against the future winner Liverpool narrowly (0-1 and 1-1). Revanchist the following season in 1976-1977, FC Barcelona reached the quarter-finals by erasing the Portuguese from Belenenses (2-2 and 3-2), the Belgians from Lokeren (2-0 and 1-2) and the Swedes of Östers (3-0 and 5-1). Once again, the adventure will end with a goal against the eventual winner, Athletic Bilbao (1-2 and 2-2). Returning once again for the 1977-1978 financial year, FC Barcelona once again showed great things by erasing the Romanians from Steaua Bucharest (8-2 aggregate), the Dutch from AZ Alkmaar (2-2 aggregate, victory at the TAB), the English of Ipswich Town (3-3 on aggregate, victory at the TAB) and the English of Aston Villa (4-3 on aggregate). In the semi-finals, it was a new defeat against the eventual winner, PSV Eindhoven, by a goal difference (4-3 on aggregate).
Accustomed to narrowly failing, FC Barcelona would compete in the UEFA Cup again a few years later in 1980-1981 with a pitiful elimination in the round of 16 against FC Cologne (4-1 on aggregate) then in the quarter-finals of the 1986-1987 edition by the Scots of Dundee United. They will fail again at this stage in 1987-1988 against Bayer Leverkusen who will be the eventual winner. A scenario that will repeat itself in 1995-1996. Reaching the semi-finals after beating Hapoel Beer-Sheva, Vitória Guimarães, Sevilla FC and PSV Eindhoven, FC Barcelona lost to Bayern Munich (2-2 and 2-1). The Bavarians who then crushed Bordeaux (2-0 and 3-1) won the event. Third in their pool behind AC Milan and Leeds United in the 2000-2001 Champions League, FC Barcelona were transferred to the UEFA Cup at the round of 16 stage. Leaving Bruges (3-1 on aggregate), AEK Athens (6-0 on aggregate) and Celta de Vigo (4-4 on aggregate), the blaugrana club failed again before the final against Liverpool with a 1- 0 cumulatively. This time again, the future winner was the executioner of the Catalans (5-4 victory against Deportivo Alavés). 6 times in 11 participations, FC Barcelona lost against the future winner of the event and will try to break this glass ceiling to finally win this title which it lacks. The Napoli which presents itself against the Catalans can say that it has a good opportunity to seize.