After a year of instability and change, Barcelona will play Bayern again, this time without Messi.
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After a year of instability and change, Barcelona will play Bayern again, this time without Messi.

"We need change from top to bottom," Gerard Pique remarked, but even he couldn't have guessed what happened next, when Barcelona rematches Bayern Munich on Tuesday, a year after the game that altered everything.

Pique claimed after Barcelona's 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals that the club needed "not just players and coaches, but fundamental change," arguing that "fresh blood" was required. He stated, "We are not able to compete in Europe."

The humiliation felt like the bottom of the barrel, a cruel affirmation of mediocrity delivered by a club on the verge of reaching Europe's summit against a team that was no longer even close.

Pique demanded change, but little has changed in the year following, with the club's financial woes exposed by Messi's departure to Paris Saint-Germain, which has been tougher for the fans to bear than any on-field hammering.
 

So, for the first time in almost two decades, Barca will begin a Champions League campaign this week without their finest ever player, who scored 120 goals in 149 games for them, including seven hat-tricks, against 41 different opponents.

Messi won four Champions Leagues in his first ten years at Camp Nou, but none in his last six, and while he was not without blame, each defeat added to the perception that a historic career had been squandered.

Reduced expectations may provide a more forgiving environment for Barcelona's young players to flourish, as well as others like Memphis Depay and Ousmane Dembele.
 

"Memphis has the potential to usher in a new era at Barca," Koeman remarked this week. "He has the personality and character that you need to succeed here."
There was rage in Pique's voice when he stated they were "no longer able to compete in Europe" last year, but there is now more acceptance, an understanding that the pinnacle is almost probably out of reach for the time being.

The worst may be over for Barcelona, but it may be some time before the good days return.

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