By Chris Bevan for the BBC
Media playback is not supported on this device First knockout stage exit in eight years
It has been well documented that Cristiano Ronaldo saved the best for last.
But, when it came to the Champions League knock-out stages last season, it was Lionel Messi who came out on top.
In a 2-0 victory for Barcelona over Juventus, the Argentinian proved the most effective striker on the pitch.
Messi finished with four goals, all from strike partner Luis Suarez, who just about matched that feat in the group stage of the competition this year.
There was further show-reel brilliance from Suarez against Manchester City in Barca’s final game of Group F.
Suarez scored seven in 10 Champions League group games in 2017-18
It was the first time Messi and Suarez have finished in the top three of the competition for three consecutive seasons since their stellar debut four years ago.
Suarez finished the group stage with nine goals, while Messi scored four more, two more than Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo.
In fact, Messi was the only player in the Champions League’s top six scorers to also register in the group stages.
It was all a far cry from 2011-12, when Messi missed both group-stage matches with knee ligament damage.
“This is our reality,” Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu said after the game against Juventus.
“We haven’t reached our objective.”
‘Real Madrid are still favourites’
“It is with disappointment and sadness that we take this result,” said Barca boss Ernesto Valverde after his side’s 4-0 mauling at the hands of Real Madrid.
It is a far cry from last year’s season-opening 4-0 win at Juventus.
“You can’t play better than we did in Turin but it was the same as last year,” said Suarez.
“Sometimes you don’t deserve to win. It was clear that we had to be patient today because the last five minutes were really tough.”
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City had cruised through their group from the start, but they were far from overconfident at the Nou Camp.
The two teams turned the ball over 12 times in the opening 10 minutes, with City hit by a glut of chances.
Ioannis Fetfatzidis missed the chance to equalise with a close-range header, Sergio Aguero’s header was saved and David Silva sent another effort over the bar.
Suarez hit the post early in the second half, before Neymar headed a Luis Suarez cross against the post.
City enjoyed a 16-4 advantage in shots on target.
“It is good and strange to get four points in the final group game,” said Guardiola.
“We played very well but had no luck.”
The in-form Tottenham, in contrast, will be wary of a side who can’t rely on their talisman either.
When Neymar was injured, he was still finding his way back to his best after rupturing his cruciate ligament in February.
He had still not scored in the Champions League in 13 appearances before Sunday’s win at CSKA Moscow.
Messi continues his dominance of the competition while Ronaldo, meanwhile, has struggled this season.
“In terms of quality, Barcelona can’t say that they are better than Real Madrid,” said Marc Wilmots, the manager of last season’s Champions League runners-up Benfica.
“The defining quality of a team is their title in the competition. It is Barcelona who are reigning champions in Spain and the national team.
“Real Madrid have a really good team but my [Champions League] matches against them – when I was at Porto, with them or against them – Messi always had a lot of quality and even if Ronaldo scored, there was always a difficult match because of the way they play.”