Barcelona, November 24: Barcelona missed the opportunity to secure their place in the Champions League last 16 after they were held to a goalless draw by Benfica, meaning they may now have to win at Bayern Munich.
Despite dominating possession for large periods of the Group E clash at Camp Nou, Xavi’s side were unable to find a way past their stubborn opponents, who might have stolen victory at the last.
Yusuf Demir struck the woodwork, while Benfica goalkeeper Odysseas Vlachodimos produced smart saves to keep out Jordi Alba and Frenkie de Jong before an offside flag denied Ronald Araujo.
Haris Seferovic then somehow missed with the goal gaping in stoppage time, but Barca remain second in the pool – two points ahead of their opponents – albeit with Bayern to play in two weeks' time, when Benfica are at home to already-eliminated Dynamo Kiev.
Requiring a win to qualify from their group in a 20th consecutive Champions League appearance, Barcelona established early control of proceedings and Alba stung the palms of Vlachodimos.
However, Marc-Andre ter Stegen did brilliantly to keep out Roman Yaremchuk's thumping header at the other end, before Benfica thought they had the lead when Nicolas Otamendi powered in off the underside of the crossbar, but his strike was ruled out after the initial corner curled out of play.
Demir then went close for the hosts before the break, his curling shot clipping the bar with Vlachodimos beaten.
Xavi introduced Ousmane Dembele as Barca continued to threaten following the restart, but De Jong's powerful header from his cross was brilliantly saved.
Araujo thought he had netted a dramatic winner seven minutes from time, only to have a late flag confirmed by the VAR, before Seferovic almost snatched victory on the counter, beating Ter Stegen but improbably poking wide.