An inconsistent few years for Barcelona, one of the world’s greatest football clubs, has seen the Catalan giants drop into UEFA’s second-tier competition in the last two seasons.
After exiting the Champions League group stages for the second year in a row, under Xavi, Barcelona take on Manchester United for a place in the Round of 16.
Barcelona and United are more accustomed to facing each other in the Champions League, with Pep Guardiola delivering two final defeats to United, during his time in Catalonia.
However, despite the improvements made by Xavi and Erik ten Hag, both teams have a long way to go to recapture their glory days.
MORE: Barca vs Man United history: Head-to-head matches, last meeting, team records ahead of Europa League clash
Have Barcelona ever won the Europa League?
2021/22 was Barcelona’s first season in European football’s second-tier competition, since it was rebranded in 2009 and they did not manage to win it during the UEFA Cup years.
Being primarily a Champions League side in recent history, the Europa League has flown beneath Barca’s radar, but they are no strangers to the old format at least.
Barcelona’s first appearance in the competition came in 1972/73, starting a run of five consecutive seasons at this level.
From the 1990s onwards, Barça have competed in the competition four times, including last season. Their 2022/23 campaign is their fifth.
In 2003/04, they were knocked out by Celtic in the Round of 16, after they were unable to overcome a 1-0 loss in the first leg, only managing a 0-0 draw at Camp Nou.
Alan Thompson’s wining goal for Celtic against Barcelona on March 11, 2004.
Rijkaard’s Barcelona lost first leg 1-0 in Glasgow before playing out goalless draw at Camp Nou.pic.twitter.com/N1nzWzvOuu
— Sacha Pisani (@Sachk0) December 8, 2021
2022 saw them go one stage further than defeat in Glasgow, as they lost out to Eintracht Frankfurt, with the German side going on to win the tournament.
The furthest Barcelona have managed to get in the competition is the semifinals. They first did so on their third appearance in the competition (and their first beyond the preliminary round), in the 1975/76 season. They lost to Liverpool, the eventual winners, 2-1 over two legs.
They reached the semis again in 1977/78, when they were knocked out by PSV, who also went on to win the final.
Barca next made the semi-final stage in the 1995/96 season, where they were knocked out by Bayern Munich 4-3 over two legs. Bayern went on to win the competition, beating Bordeaux in the final.
Their most recent appearance at the semifinal stage came in 2001, when they lost 1-0 to Liverpool. And in keeping with tradition, the team who beat them went on to win it, with Liverpool defeating Deportivo Alaves 5-4 in a memorable contest.
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Will Barcelona qualify for next season’s Champions League?
Xavi has looked to inject real belief in his young squad so far this season as they aim to overhaul Real Madrid and win a first La Liga title since 2019
Ahead of the end of season run-in, Barcelona look to be in a very strong position to qualify for the 2023/24 UEFA Champions League, regardless of their performance in this season’s Europa League.
Winning the Europa League would offer Barcelona an alternative route into the top tier European competition but they look well placed to at least secure a top four finish in La Liga.
After lifting the Spanish Supercopa in January, Xavi is hungry for a first major accolade in the coming months, with Barcelona also in the running to win the Copa del Rey.