FC Barcelona
Barcelona was charged with corruption last month over multi-million-euro payments to a company owned by a former refereeing chief AFP / Pau BARRENA

FC Barcelona have been having a tough week after having been knocked out of the Copa del Rey by eternal rivals Real Madrid on Wednesday evening. The big 0-4 loss (1-4 on aggregate) came as a big blow coupled with UEFA's decision to pursue a case against the club which may lead to their suspension from European competitions next season.

Barcelona hosted Real Madrid at the Camp Nou coming off a 0-1 victory from the first leg at the Santiago Bernabeu. The decisive goal in the first leg was an own goal from Eder Militao, but the Blaugrana dominated the match and were confident that they could win four editions of "El Clasico" in a row.

However, their dreams of a domestic treble this season came to an end after Carlo Ancelotti's side drew on a strength that always seems to come to the surface during the most crucial of matches. Vinicius Jr. drew first blood off a counter-attack and the rest was history after Karim Benzema scored his second hat-trick this week to push Real Madrid to the Copa del Rey final.

Barcelona played well in the first half, but their confidence was clearly shattered after Vini and Benzema scored in quick succession on opposite sides of the break. Manager Xavi Hernandez admitted that after Benzema put the visitors in the lead on aggregate, his squad fell apart on the pitch.

In his post match press conference quoted by Mundo Deportivo, Xavi said, "In the first half we were very good. We should have stopped their counter attack for their first goal. The second just after half time killed us. We have to be self-critical and continue."

However, Xavi did not want to make any excuses for the loss and refused to say that the injuries to key members of his squad influenced the result. Barcelona missed the services of Andreas Christensen, Frenkie De Jong, Pedri and Ousmane Dembele on Wednesday, but the manager felt that it would only be an excuse to point that out. He also gave credit where credit is due, saying that Real Madrid are the current UEFA Champions League title holders and were always the favourites to advance.

In any case, Barcelona have a real chance of dethroning Real Madrid in the La Liga battle. The Catalans currently carry a commanding 12-point advantage at the top of the league table. This could be their first La Liga title in four years, and is something that could boost the club's morale amid all the turmoil.

Speaking of turmoil, the Blaugrana are also fighting battles off the field. After the decision by the Spanish Prosecutor's Office to lodge a case against them in connection with El Caso Negreira, UEFA have also decided to pursue an investigation over possible corruption.

UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin confirmed that the governing body has opened an investigation into the payments made by the club to former referee and technical official Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira.

Ceferin claimed that the allegations against the club for possibly influencing match officials are "serious" and could bring dire consequences for the club. If it is proven that Barcelona's payments to Negreira were meant to influence referees' decisions, then UEFA could decide to suspend Barcelona from European competitions.

This season, they have already crashed out of the UEFA Champions league and subsequently the Europa League. However, judging by their position in the La Liga table, they will qualify for the Champions League in for the upcoming 2023/24 season.

As such, UEFA wants the case to move along quickly. According to Marca, the organisation wants a verdict by June, and for all subsequent appeals to the UEFA Court of Appeals, and the Court of Arbtitration for Sport to be settled soon after should Barcelona disagree with the initial verdict.

The reason behind the urgency is that they do not want to have to impose a sanction once the season has already started. In other words, if Barcelona are to be excluded, they should know before the competition begins.

Barcelona have maintained their innocence in the case, and have demanded the resignation of La Liga president Javier Tebas for his vocal criticism of the club. Barcelona may also take legal action against UEFA if the latter moves for a suspension.