Toni Kroos believes Real Madrid have been dealt the toughest possible Champions League last-16 tie but is relishing the chance to take on Paris Saint-Germain.

Madrid were initially paired with Benfica on Monday, but a technical glitch forced a re-draw and the LaLiga leaders will now face Ligue 1 pacesetters PSG over two legs in February and March.

Record 13-time European champions Madrid finished top of Group D and could have faced either Benfica, PSG, Sporting CP, Salzburg or Chelsea.

But while the Spanish giants dodged a meeting with reigning champions Chelsea, Kroos feels his side will face an even tougher opponent in PSG, who boast the likes of Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Madrid legend Sergio Ramos in their ranks.

"We have a very interesting opponent for the next round," he said in a video posted on his Instagram page. "I think they are the toughest opponent of the five that could touch us. 

"They are the games for which we play. We look for these games, with a lot of quality on the field. Let's see what will happen – at the end of the day we are Madrid."

Madrid eliminated PSG the last time the sides met over two legs in the competition in the 2017-18 last 16, but the Parisians prevailed in their only two other previous knockout-round ties in European competition (in 1992-92 and 1993-94).

The LaLiga club have lost just one of their six Champions League encounters with PSG overall, meanwhile, when going down 3-0 at the Parc des Princes in the group stage three seasons ago.

And with his side flying high at the top of the Spanish top flight, Kroos is in positive spirits ahead of his side's blockbuster showdown with Mauricio Pochettino's men.

"We always look forward to this type of game and we are very confident about reaching the quarter-finals," Kroos said.

"We are doing very well. Our focus right now is on the league and there are many games left before the Champions League.

"The most important thing now is to continue as we are doing in the next games before Christmas, to continue scoring points that bring us closer to the goal of winning LaLiga at the end of the season.

"This is the most important thing and we have to concentrate on that and then the Champions League, but only when the time comes."

Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain each have four nominees in the 23-man shortlist for the FIFA FIFPRO Men's World 11 for 2021.

Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson and full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold are also included, although there is no place for Mohamed Salah.

PSG's attacking trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe are among the forwards, as is Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo.

Veteran Dani Alves also won enough votes to make the list, even though the 38-year-old, who recently rejoined Barcelona, only played 16 times in domestic competition in Brazil this year.

Professional footballers across the world were asked to vote for the three players they considered to have the best seasons during the 2020-21 season among goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders and forwards.

FIFPRO said: "For the first time in 17 years, FIFPRO is updating the announcement about the most-voted players, reducing the shortlist from 55 to 23. This has been done to resemble a real-life 'squad' which, usually for international competitions, is the number of players involved. 

"The three goalkeepers, six defenders, six midfielders and six forwards with the most votes earned a place in the 23-men World 11 'squad'. To complete this elite selection, the two remaining outfield players with the most votes were added."

The keeper, three defenders, three midfielders and three forwards with the most votes will be chosen for the World 11, with the remaining spot assigned to the outfield player with the next highest number of votes.

The final 11 will be announced at The Best FIFA Football Awards ceremony on January 17.

 

FIFA FIFPRO MEN'S WORLD 11 23-PLAYER SHORTLIST:

Goalkeepers:
Alisson (Liverpool, Brazil)
Gianluigi Donnarumma (Milan/Paris Saint-Germain, Italy)
Edouard Mendy (Chelsea, Senegal)

Defenders:
David Alaba (Bayern Munich/Real Madrid, Austria)
Jordi Alba (Barcelona, Spain)
Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool, England)
Dani Alves (Sao Paulo/Barcelona, Brazil)
Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus, Italy)
Ruben Dias (Manchester City, Portugal)

Midfielders:
Sergio Busquets (Barcelona, Spain)
Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City, Belgium)
Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United, Portugal)
Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona, The Netherlands)
Jorginho (Chelsea, Italy)
N'Golo Kante (Chelsea, France)

Forwards:
Karim Benzema (Real Madrid, France)
Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus/Manchester United, Portugal)
Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund, Norway)
Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich, Poland)
Romelu Lukaku (Inter/Chelsea, Belgium)
Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain, France)
Lionel Messi (Barcelona/Paris Saint-Germain, Argentina)
Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain, Brazil)

Sergio Ramos would have preferred Paris Saint-Germain to have avoided Real Madrid in the last 16 of the Champions League but conceded "I have to face the present".

The Los Blancos legend spent 16 trophy-laden years in the Spanish capital, where he won five LaLiga titles and four Champions Leagues among his plethora of honours.

Centre-back Ramos made the switch to Ligue 1 with powerhouses PSG ahead of the 2021-22 season after Madrid opted not to offer him a new contract.

In a twist of fate, Ramos' new side were paired to do battle with his former club, but only after a re-draw was needed following a technical glitch with the first attempt.

Speaking at the opening of his new gym in Madrid, Ramos opened up about the prospect of coming up a club so close to his heart.

"Fate is very unpredictable. I'd have liked us to draw another team, but that's how it is," Ramos said.

"You know the affection and love I have for Real Madrid, that won't ever change. Now I have to face the present. I play for PSG.

"It's a mixture of feelings. I'd have liked not to have had this tie, but on the other hand coming home to the Bernabeu, I had the best years of my life here and not having had a goodbye because of COVID, it's gratifying. 

"I'd have liked it to be another way but that's football. I have to defend my team. I'll go to the death with PSG."

Another sub-plot thrown up by the tie is the fact Kylian Mbappe will come against Madrid, who were rebuffed in their attempts to sign the France star on transfer deadline day.

With Mbappe out of contract in June there is the possibility he may have agreed a pre-contract agreement with Madrid by the time he plays against them with PSG.

Ramos, though, hopes Mbappe decides to stay with the Ligue 1 leaders.

"I like to be surrounded by the best players and he is a key part of PSG in the present and in the future. I want him to continue in my team," he added.

At PSG, Ramos has linked up with long-time rival and Barcelona great Lionel Messi, a player with whom he has done battle with many times over the years.

But now Ramos says the two have a relationship built on mutual respect in Paris.

"Now we share a dressing room and we have a very good relationship. We try to help PSG win," he said.

"The goal is the Champions League and both Messi and I can contribute something. The relationship is one of admiration and respect for both parties."

Kylian Mbappe, Lionel Messi and Sergio Ramos will come up against Real Madrid after Paris Saint-Germain were paired with Los Blancos in the Champions League round of 16, which had to undergo a re-draw.

PSG were initially drawn against Manchester United on Monday, throwing up a tantalising encounter between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

However, a technical error meant the draw had to take place again and while Messi will not meet Ronaldo just yet, the Barcelona great will go up against his former club's Clasico rivals.

Having finished second in Group A behind Manchester City, who were handed a favourable tie against Sporting CP, PSG will host Madrid in the first leg in February before visiting the Santiago Bernabeu in March.

That means Mbappe, who is a high-profile target for Madrid and could well have already signed a pre-contract agreement with Los Blancos by the time these fixtures roll around, will go up against his suitors.

It also sees Madrid legend Ramos go up against his old club, and it is the same story for Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti, who coached PSG from 2011 to 2013.

United, on the other hand, will face Atletico Madrid, who had initially been due to play Bayern Munich. The Bundesliga giants have been drawn against Salzburg.

Liverpool may well lament their luck. Salzburg had been their original opponents, but Jurgen Klopp's team now have to prepare for a tie against Serie A champions Inter - albeit they made light work of the Nerazzurri's rivals Milan in the group stage.

Coincidentally, holders Chelsea were again drawn against Lille, having been set a tie with the Ligue 1 champions during the initial draw. 

Villarreal will take on Juventus and Ajax go up against Benfica.

Champions League last 16 draw in full:

Salzburg v Bayern Munich
Sporting CP v Manchester City
Benfica v Ajax
Chelsea v Lille
Atletico Madrid v Manchester United
Villarreal v Juventus
Inter v Liverpool 
PSG v Real Madrid

UEFA has confirmed the Champions League last-16 draw will have to be re-done after a technical error with the initial procedure.

Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain were set to face each other in the knockout stage, but that headline fixture and the other ties will have to be redrawn after what UEFA labelled as a "technical problem with the software of an external service provider that instructs the officials as to which teams are eligible to play each other."

United were initially drawn to face Villarreal, but the sides were unable to play each other as they had previously featured in the same group.

After complaints from affected clubs, including Atletico Madrid, UEFA later announced the draw would take place again at 1500 CET (1400 GMT).

UEFA's deputy general secretary, Giorgio Marchetti, spotted the mistake involving United's ball and ordered the tie to be drawn again. Manchester City were instead picked to go against Villarreal.

Yet United, due to the technical error, were subsequently blocked from being selected as one of the teams eligible to play the next team, which was LaLiga champions Atleti.

Bayern Munich were ultimately picked to face Atleti, while United were drawn in the glamour tie of the round against PSG – a game that would have seen Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi meet in the knockout stages of the Champions League for the first time since the 2010-11 semi-finals.

The re-draw could well benefit United, given the challenge of facing PSG. However, holders Chelsea and Liverpool were handed favourable draws against Lille and Salzburg respectively.

Inter had been due to face Ajax, while Sporting CP were up against Juventus. Real Madrid had been drawn against Benfica.

UEFA has confirmed the Champions League last-16 draw will have to be re-done after a technical error with the initial procedure.

Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain were set to face each other in the knockout stage, but that headline fixture and the other ties will have to be redrawn after what UEFA labelled as a "technical problem with the software of an external service provider that instructs the officials as to which teams are eligible to play each other."

United were initially drawn to face Villarreal, but the sides were unable to play each other as they had previously featured in the same group.

After complaints from affected clubs, including Atletico Madrid, UEFA later announced the draw would take place again at 1500 CET (1400 GMT).

Lionel Messi will once again face off with old foe Cristiano Ronaldo after Paris Saint-Germain were drawn against Manchester United in the headline fixture of the Champions League round of 16.

Former Barcelona star Messi meets Ronaldo in the knockout stages, with United visiting the Parc des Princes in February before the return leg at Old Trafford will take place in March. The legendary duo also met in last season's group stage when Los Cules went up against Juventus.

PSG finished second behind Group A winners Manchester City, while United were top of Group F.

If Messi against Ronaldo was not enough to look forward to, the tie also sees Mauricio Pochettino face the side that he has long been touted as a possible manager of.

Ex-Spurs boss Pochettino remains among the favourites to replace interim boss Ralf Rangnick, who is in charge until at least the end of the season.

United have met PSG in two of the previous three seasons. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer masterminded a 3-1 win at the same stage in March 2019, a victory that saw United through 4-3 on aggregate and secured him the job on a permanent basis.

The sides played each other again in the group stage of the 2019-20 campaign, with Thomas Tuchel's PSG winning at Old Trafford after losing the home game 2-1.

There was, however, a nervy moment for UEFA's officials when United were initially drawn against Villarreal, but due to teams who played each other in the group stage not being able to face each other in the last 16, the tie had to be re-drawn.

It remains to be seen whether any clubs lodge a complaint, with initial reports suggesting the draw will stand.

United's rivals and last season's runners-up City were instead drawn against Villarreal, who were victors of the 2020-21 Europa League.

Elsewhere in Monday's draw, holders Chelsea were paired with Ligue 1 champions Lille and Liverpool landed a favourable draw against Salzburg.

Atletico Madrid, who scraped through in second place behind Liverpool in Group B, face a daunting tie with Bayern Munich.

Benfica went through in Group E at the expense of Barcelona, and the Portuguese giants were drawn against the Blaugrana's Clasico rivals and 13-time European champions Madrid.

Ajax topped a Champions League group for the first time since 1995-96, and were drawn against Inter, with Juventus meeting Sporting CP, who are making their first appearance in the knockout stage since 2008-09.

Champions League last 16 draw in full:

Benfica v Real Madrid
Villarreal v Manchester City
Atletico Madrid v Bayern Munich
Salzburg v Liverpool
Inter v Ajax
Sporting CP v Juventus
Chelsea v Lille
PSG v Manchester United

Barcelona head coach Xavi has told the club what he wants from the January transfer window and is optimistic that signings will arrive next month.

The Catalan giants crashed out of the Champions League group stage for the first time in 21 years on Wednesday after a 3-0 defeat at Bayern Munich, adding another dark day to a tumultuous period in the club's history.

Barca sit seventh in LaLiga ahead of a trip to Osasuna on Sunday, 16 points behind leaders Real Madrid, and at a media conference ahead of that game, Xavi was asked about plans for the January transfer window, with plenty of rumours circulating that the club will look to sign players, despite well-documented financial issues.

"We are working hard on this, that's the reality," the former Barca and Spain midfielder told reporters. "The team always needs to improve and we maybe need to use the winter market to capitalise on an opportunity.

"There's very good communication between the club and the staff, we had a very productive conversation. I was very clear in what I believe and what I want, and based on that we're going to work to our maximum capabilities.

"We have financial restraints, but we need to find solutions to improve the team and be more competitive."

Xavi was also asked about the mood in the camp after the loss in Munich.

"Of course I'm concerned," he said. "I think we need to improve the team morale. Tomorrow is another opportunity for that, to continue to grow. We need to continue to work with the players we have, and above all get the three points.

"I think there are areas where we've improved a lot, the high press, keeping a high line but against Bayern we saw a lesser Barca. Bayern outmatched us.

"We're working on it, and I already said in Munich that we need to put Barca back where we belong, which is to be a team that competes with the likes of Bayern."

Further reflecting on the situation, Xavi added: "We're not in the best moment in our history, that's obvious, but we need to recuperate the good vibes in the team, get good results, play well, and we do that through hard work."

The World Cup winner also indicated that the time is now for Barca to "reset", with this being the start of a new cycle.

"It seems like right now losses are almost taken as a given," he said. 

"We need more dedication, more professionalism, something that we simply cannot be lacking here. We need to be more demanding in the training sessions, braver, more excitement, more joy, because we have a feeling that a cycle has finished and a new Barca is starting."

There was nothing especially surprising about Vinicius Junior's performance against Borussia Monchengladbach in last season's 2-2 Champions League draw in Germany.

The Brazilian played as he usually did, with wastefulness interspersed by occasional flashes of flair and trickery.

And there's every reason to suggest that's what you should expect from a teenager still finding his footing. Even the most talented superstars struggle with consistency during their formative years.

Just look at Cristiano Ronaldo. When he first joined Manchester United, he was even more of a showboater who frustrated and entertained in equal measure – a few years later, he was probably the best striker on the planet.

Development is a process, everyone knows that, but it doesn't mean everyone is understanding or patient – even a player's team-mates can get the hump.

Karim Benzema certainly appeared to fit that description at the halfway mark of the game at Gladbach last year.

The target

In the tunnel, Benzema was caught on camera talking to some of his team-mates, allegedly criticising Vinicius in French. He was claimed to have told Ferland Mendy not to pass to the Brazilian, convinced he was "playing against us", according to widely reported translations.

The clip was subsequently shared all over social media, causing a fair bit of embarrassment for Madrid and Benzema. It was pretty humiliating for Vinicius as well.

Vinicius downplayed the situation the following month but it was too late to eradicate the belief held by many, that Madrid's changing room was increasingly divided.

Benzema's half-time comments came after playing just three passes to Vinicius in the first 45 minutes, a period in which the Flamengo youth product could do little right.

There were misplaced short passes, an overhit cross, a ball played behind Luka Modric as the Croatian looked to burst into the box in threatening fashion.

Over the course of the full game (well, the 70 minutes Vinicius played), he failed to get any of his three shots on target, including one woeful slice from a cut-back to the middle of the area, and his 71.4 per cent pass success was the poorest of any Madrid starter.

Of course, players who operate in attacking areas of the pitch do tend to complete fewer passes in general, but Alassane Plea (85.2 per cent), Benzema (87.5) and Marcus Thuram (92.6) were all working in similar positions and were far less wasteful in possession.

In the second half, Benzema didn't pass to him once.

The bond

Following that Champions League encounter, the on-pitch relationship between Benzema and Vinicius proved to be a regular source of debate – while the Frenchman enjoyed a fine individual campaign, his team-mate was still not at the same level of importance to Madrid, as highlighted by his modest 22 LaLiga starts.

But their apparent lack of cohesion on the pitch was by no means one-sided. In fact, during matches both started over the course of the 2020-21 LaLiga season, Benzema actually played slightly more passes to Vinicius (3.3 per match) than he received (3.25 per match).

Their combinations this season accentuate the previous disconnect even more. In the 13 league games both have started, Vinicius has averaged 5.9 passes to Benzema, while the latter has sought out the youngster 4.9 times each match.

They have already combined for 16 chances created in the league this term, just one shy of their total for 2020-21, and that's translated to more goal combinations as well – in all competitions, Benzema and Vinicius have set each other up for seven goals.

Before that October night in Monchengladbach a little over 13 months ago, Benzema and Vinicius had only ever linked up for a goal three times (all competitions) and none of those had been since February 2019.

While it might be a bit of a stretch to suggest Benzema's criticism spurred Vinicius on, they've undoubtedly moved past any lingering awkwardness to form a genuine understanding.

The arrival

Ahead of Sunday's derby with Atletico Madrid, no attacking duo in the top five leagues can better Benzema and Vinicius' collective haul of 22 top-flight goals, while no other club has two players already on double figures.

Of course, there remains the possibility Benzema can't play after sustaining a muscular injury against Real Sociedad last weekend. He had to sit out the 2-0 Champions League win over Inter and is reportedly set to undergo final tests on Friday.

Carlo Ancelotti had been optimistic after the defeat of Inter, so he's certainly not a lost cause. But being without their talisman for such an occasion would really throw a gauntlet down to Vinicius to prove he can handle being the main man – after all, that's presumably the status Madrid chiefs see him taking over the next 10 years or so.

Yet the very fact Vinicius is even being considered as a key player speaks volumes for his progression in a fairly short period of time.

If we go back to that aforementioned awkwardness in Monchengladbach, Vinicius' effectiveness did appear to dip afterwards. Whether that's down to his confidence being rocked by Benzema's criticism is impossible to prove, but the numbers show there was a drop-off.

In his 76 Madrid games prior to that match, Vinicius averaged 3.4 shots, 0.27 goals, 2.0 chances created and 0.2 expected assists on a per-90-minute basis. Across the 42 matches that followed until the end of 2020-21, his productivity decreased significantly in all of those areas.

But Ancelotti's arrival has seen him really kick on. For a while it looked as though Vinicius' days at Madrid were numbered, now he could be a mainstay at the club for years.

Above all, Vinicius appears to have matured massively when it comes to his decision-making. His shooting frequency hasn't recovered all the way (2.9 per 90 minutes), but he's getting 1.5 of those on target, giving him a shooting accuracy of better than 50 per cent – he didn't manage that before or after Benzema's comments.

Similarly, his expected goals has increased slightly to 0.44 every 90 minutes and his average of 0.6 goals is more than double what it had been before Monchengladbach, highlighting not only better shot selection but also greater composure in more difficult situations.

He has enjoyed improvement in terms of chance creation (2.3 per 90 minutes) and xA (0.25) as well. Overall, it feels like Vinicius has finally arrived – but what's changed?

Besides him just getting a bit older and more experienced, it would seem Ancelotti simply has greater trust in him than Zinedine Zidane did, hence why all of Vinicius' 18 most recent appearances have been as a starter.

This time last year, the thought of Benzema missing the derby and having to rely on Vinicius to step up would've filled many Madrid fans with dread. How things change.

Duvan Zapata insists that he and his Atalanta team-mates "gave everything" in their 3-2 Champions League defeat against Villarreal on Thursday.

Atalanta required a win in order to leapfrog their opponents into second place in their final group-stage game, which had been rescheduled after heavy snowfall on Wednesday.

However, Arnaut Danjuma scored either side of Etienne Capoue to give Villarreal a 3-0 lead by the 51st minute, and Atalanta were unable to come back despite goals from Ruslan Malinovskyi and Zapata.

The Atalanta striker revealed that, despite the team's regret at failing to qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League, they remain "calm".

"We are disappointed," Zapata said to Prime Video. "However, we are calm in the sense that we gave everything on the pitch.

"We are very sorry because we wanted to go through and be among the strongest 16. That's how the game went, we need to think about the [league] because it is thanks to the [league] that we are here.

"We were in trouble in the first half also because they took the lead quickly. Then we tried to attack and draw quickly. I think we played against anxiety, they are a good team who played a great match. 

"There is regret for every situation that could have been done better. We gave everything. We are very sorry, but I feel the group [is] calm because we have tried in every way possible to equalise."

Atalanta defender Rafael Toloi echoed his team-mate's sentiments, apologising to the club's fans for not winning the game but looking ahead to the rest of the season with optimism.

"Sorry we didn't win, but I think we gave a good response in the second half," Toloi told Prime Video. "We created beautiful situations. Sorry we didn't win, now we have to continue in the league and watch the Europa League draws.

"We tried to play the game. We conceded a goal at the beginning [due to] a mistake and then they have quality players. We played a great game. Sorry for the result, [but our heads are] held high and we still have a whole season to go."

Atalanta now drop into the knockout play-off round of the Europa League, where they will be drawn against a side that finished second in their group.

Julian Nagelsmann believes Bayern Munich would have won by an even greater margin had they not taken their foot of the pedal in Wednesday's comprehensive Champions League win over Barcelona.

Bayern outclassed and overpowered Barca 3-0 midweek, a result that eliminated the embattled LaLiga giants from the Champions League.

Thomas Muller, Leroy Sane and Jamal Musiala were on target for Group E winners Bayern, who progressed to the knockout phase with a 100 per cent record.

Bayern led 2-0 at half-time thanks to Muller and Sane before Musiala netted a third just past the hour-mark at Allianz Arena.

With 22 goals scored and just three conceded, Bayern's goal difference of plus-19 during the group stages has only been bettered once before in Champions League history – Paris Saint-Germain in 2017-18 (+21 - F25 A4).

Afterwards, Bayern head coach Nagelsmann felt Barca were fortunate not to have conceded more in Munich.

"We played against an opponent who, of course, has a very big name and actually had to win today," Nagelsmann told DAZN.

"We have never really let it unfold properly. In the second half we clearly defended deeper and let them have the ball a little more, but I believe that if we put it on properly, then we could have scored significantly more goals than three."

Along with Liverpool and Ajax, Bayern became the third side this season to win all six Champions League group-stage matches.

This is the first campaign to see more than one team manage this in the same season, whilst the German outfit are just the second team ever to do so on more than one occasion (also in 2019-20), alongside Real Madrid (2011-12 and 2014-15).

Asked if Bayern are favourites to win the Champions League, Nagelsmann replied: "It's always a huge topic for the journalists: 'Who is the favourite?' You can write a lot about it. In the end, it's a fact that in the knockout stage there are more factors.

"Sometimes the daily performance is decisive or some lucky moments. You don't have time to bring something back in order if you made some mistakes before. Of course, all teams that reach the knockout stage are some kind of favourites and can win this title. We as well. We did very well in the group stage. It's well deserved and also today our focus was really good and we reached the next round.

"It's our own requirement to be one of the favourites, of course. We would like to win the Champions League and some of us would like to win it again. We need to show the same performances in the knockout stage and keep the same level. I believe that my team can do this. But in the end it's only about doing it. Now we wait for our opponent and then we will prepare for that, but there's still some time."

Barca – amid a financial crisis – were consigned to the Europa League/UEFA Cup for the first time since 2003-04 following their Bayern defeat.

It is the fourth time Barcelona have been eliminated in the Champions League group stage after 1997-98, 1998-99 and 2000-01, and the second time that they have fallen to the secondary European competition from the Champions League group stage following 2000-2001 (then, to play the UEFA Cup after finishing third behind Milan and Leeds United).

Barca's tally of two goals after their six group-stage matches is their lowest recorded total in the Champions League, whilst only in 1997-98 (14) did they concede more goals at this stage than the nine they have shipped this season.

"I think that the club can bounce back," Nagelsmann said of Barca. "It's still one of the biggest clubs. Today we deserved the victory and in both games we showed really good performances and our wins were well deserved.

"I think Barcelona are a club with a lot of expertise and good guys. Not only Xavi, but also guys in the back who will make intelligent decisions for this club. I already said in the news conference before the game that it's not easy to deal with more than €1billion in debt in the daily business. It's about extremely tough decisions that need to be taken. This can take a while.

"If I think that this would happen to us, then I am sure it would take a while until we could bounce back and be successful again. I wish them all the best and I hope the club will be soon the glorious Barcelona again that we all know."

Barcelona president Joan Laporta called for unity after the embattled club were dumped out of the Champions League.

Barca were consigned to the Europa League/UEFA Cup for the first time since 2003-04 on Wednesday, outclassed 3-0 by Group E winners Bayern Munich at Allianz Arena.

Xavi's Barca needed to win or hope Benfica failed to beat Dynamo Kiev elsewhere in the final round of group fixtures in order to avoid elimination, but the struggling LaLiga giants were no match for Bayern, who were led by goals from Thomas Muller, Leroy Sane and Jamal Musiala.

It is the fourth time Barcelona have been eliminated in the Champions League group stage after 1997-98, 1998-99 and 2000-01, and the second time that they have fallen to the secondary European competition from the Champions League group stage following 2000-2001 (then, to play the UEFA Cup after finishing third behind Milan and Leeds United).

Barca are also seventh in LaLiga, 16 points off the pace as Laporta addressed the club's plight.

"We are sad about this result, but we have to move on. It is time to work hard and try to reverse this situation," Laporta told TV3.

"We have not been able to go down to the locker room to lift the players. We will speak with the coaching staff on the plane.

"We did what we could and now we have to try to overcome this situation.

"I make a call to all the Barcelona fans, today more than ever we have to row all together in the same direction to try to overcome this situation altogether."

Barca's tally of two goals after their six group-stage matches is their lowest recorded total in the Champions League, whilst only in 1997-98 (14) did they concede more goals at this stage than the nine they have shipped this season.

Xavi became second Barcelona head coach to fail to win in his first two Champions League games (D1 L1), after Louis Van Gaal in 1997 (D1 L1).

Barca boss Xavi added in a news conference: "This must be a turning point. I have told the players, today a new stage has to begin for Barca, revealing ourselves to this situation.

"We cannot accept this situation because Barcelona does not deserve to be where we are today. I tell the Barcelona fans that we will work hard because I feel this club, I love this club and we will work hard. We will leave our skin to [help] Barca recover and put them where they deserve, and that is not in the Europa League.

"But we have to face it, it is a hard reality but it is what there is. It is the reality and we have to face it and rebel and this has to serve as a turning point to improve."

Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick outlined the differences between "massive talent" Mason Greenwood and Erling Haaland after the Red Devils star scored a stunning Champions League goal.

Greenwood opened the scoring with a spectacular finish before Fabian Rieder equalised for Young Boys prior to half-time in Wednesday's 1-1 draw at Old Trafford.

Already assured of a last-16 berth, Rangnick made 11 changes to the United team that started the 1-0 Premier League win over Crystal Palace, and Greenwood stood out in the final Group F fixture.

Greenwood scored his eighth goal in major European competition (excluding qualifiers) for United – the most of any player for the club before their 21st birthday, overtaking team-mate Marcus Rashford.

Rangnick praised the 20-year-old post-match, telling reporters: "I think, again, today, he also showed – not only because of that beautiful goal – but also the way he set up the opportunity for Juan Mata it was brilliant.

"He is a massive talent. Left foot, right foot, good on the ball. Also, the way that he set up the goal for Fred on Sunday [against Crystal Palace]. But, still, it's about continuity. He still needs to develop physically. But technically, for his age, he's a great player.

"My job is to develop him, to make an athlete out of him. If he manages to do that, he can become a regular player for this club."

Rangnick was then asked about comparisons between Green and Borussia Dortmund sensation Haaland, who has been linked with a move to United.

"I don't think that we should compare those two players," Rangnick, who worked with Haaland at Salzburg, said. "They are different kind of strikers and players.

"Erling Haaland is extremely physical. He's, I don't know, 1.93 or 1.94cm. A different kind of striker. Erling, for me, is a target striker. He can play as a single striker, like a target-man, or with another striker in a 4--4-2. 

"I think Mason is more of a nine-and-a-half. He can play as a striker, he can also come from the wing, he can play together with another striker. And he is very technical - left foot, right foot. As I said, sometimes he looks a little bit not on an athletic level. And, I think, we have to develop him there physically. But, technically, all the things that he can do with the ball are outstanding. So I am not so much worried about his technical level.

"We need to develop him physically and mentally to become the strongest version of himself. If we manage to do that, he can become a regular player and a very valuable player for our club for the future."

Atalanta's quest to reach the Champions League knockout phase has been rescheduled after Wednesday's showdown against Villarreal was postponed due to heavy snowfall.

The crucial Group F fixture on the sixth and final matchday was initially delayed in Bergamo, where snow forced kick-off to be altered by 20 minutes.

But as the snow continued to fall at Gewiss Stadium, the contest was eventually called off, despite the best efforts of ground staff.

Now, Atalanta and Villarreal will go head-to-head on Thursday, with the hosts guaranteed at least third position following the 1-1 draw between group winners Manchester United and Young Boys midweek.

Atalanta can progress to the last 16 if they beat second-placed Villarreal.

"The referee [Anthony Taylor] tried to get us to play, he wanted to see how the weather developed and we cleared the turf, but the snow continued to come down," Atalanta director Umberto Marino told Sky Sport Italia and Mediaset Infinity.

"The official was intelligent, involved the two coaches in the decision. The players had to be protected from potential danger, the referee spoke to the players and coaches, everyone agreed with the decision. In these conditions, there was no alternative."

The rescheduled contest will take place at 19:00 local time after UEFA reportedly planned for the game to kick-off at 16:30.

"UEFA make the decision in Nyon, we made our request and that is to play it in the evening," Marino added.

Atalanta are third in Group F, a point behind reigning Europa League champions Villarreal.

Among teams who have played 20 or more Champions League games, Atalanta have highest goals per game ratio of any side in the competition's history (3.5 – 78 in 22 games).

Thomas Muller said Barcelona "cannot compete at maximum intensity in top-level football" after Bayern Munich eliminated the embattled Blaugrana from the Champions League.

Barca were consigned to the Europa League/UEFA Cup for the first time since 2003-04 after being outclassed 3-0 by Bayern in Munich on Wednesday.

Thomas Muller, Leroy Sane and Jamal Musiala were on target for Group E winners Bayern, who progressed to the knockout phase with a 100 per cent record.

Barca needed to win or hope Benfica failed to beat Dynamo Kiev elsewhere in the final round of group fixtures in order to avoid elimination, but Xavi's side were no match for Bayern.

It is the fourth time Barcelona have been eliminated in the Champions League group stage after 1997-98, 1998-99 and 2000-01, and the second time that they have fallen to the secondary European competition from the Champions League group stage following 2000-2001 (then, to play the UEFA Cup after finishing third behind Milan and Leeds United).

Afterwards, Bayern star Muller discussed Barca's plight, with the LaLiga outfit also seventh domestically and 16 points off the pace.

"Barca cannot cope with our intensity," Muller told DAZN post-match.

"Technically, they have it all, great players on a technical and tactical level.

"But they cannot compete at maximum intensity in top-level football."

Muller has scored eight goals in seven appearances against Barcelona in the Champions League – his most against a single opponent in the competition – his tally of eight goals is the most of any player against Barca in the history of the European Cup/Champions League.

The 32-year-old is also the first German player to reach 50 Champions League goals in the history of the competition following his 34th-minute opener.

"They just seem to fly in against Barca. It was another typical [Muller] goal, but I'll take it," Muller said.

"Fifty goals [in the Champions League] is good but I still have a lot of football ahead of me."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.