Barcelona’s hopes of progressing to the last 16 of the Champions League now hinges on the final matchday of Group E after the Spanish club were held to a 0-0 draw against Benfica on Tuesday.
With Xavi Hernandez taking charge of his second game since replacing Ronald Koeman in the Barca dugout, the Catalan side produced a performance a world apart from the sorry outfit Benfica saw off 3-0 in Lisbon in September.
A win would have earned Barca qualification alongside Bayern Munich, whom they must now beat on December 8, if Benfica down Dynamo Kiev, to progress.
In torrential rain, the Xavi-invigorated hosts were dripping with newfound intensity and pace. Only the woodwork denied teenager Yusuf Demir late in the first half.
In front of almost 50,000 fans braving a wintery evening in Catalonia, Barca emerged for the second period in dominant mood, but Benfica held firm.
Four minutes of injury time proved no place for the faint-hearted, as both sides went all out for the winner, but as it was, the stalemate left Barca in second on seven points, two ahead of Benfica, and their Champions League fortunes resting on a result in Munich in two weeks’ time.