Xavi confident as Barcelona begin UCL campaign

The Blaugrana will take on the Belgian club Royal Antwerp

By Web Desk
September 19, 2023
FC Barcelona's head coach Xavi Hernandez addresses a press conference. — FCB

FC Barcelona will begin their UEFA Champions League (UCL) campaign against Belgian champions Royal Antwerp at Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys on Tuesday.

After signing Joao Felix and Joao Cancelo, the Catalan club is on a roll and recorded a five-goal win over Real Betis in La Liga on the weekend and will enter into their UCL clash with much-needed confidence.

With a player like Ilkay Gungodan, who captained Manchester City to a historic treble last season, the Blaugrana have much-needed experience in their midfield next to young talents like Pedri and Gavi.

On the other hand, the 16-year-old prodigy Lamine Yamal playing next to the experienced Robert Lewandowski provides the required depth and balance in their attack.

Barca is in Group H with Antwerp, Shakhtar Donetsk and FC Porto and Xavi will settle for nothing less than topping the group.

"It's time to take a step forward in the Champions League," Xavi told a press conference on Monday. "The objective is to finish top of the group and be seeded in the knockout phase draw. But it's about deeds, not words.

"Last season, the team did well in terms of play but not in terms of results. This year we have to play well and get results," he added.

Xavi also confirmed that Ronald Araujo, who pulled his hamstring, and Pedri, who injured his right thigh last month, will not be rushed back to play in Barca’s UCL opener.

"We could have forced (their return) for Antwerp, but I prefer to be cautious," he said.

It must be noted that the last time Barcelona won the Champions League was in 2015 when the Catalan club clinched their fifth European title after beating Juventus in the final, courtesy of goals from Ivan Rakitic, Luis Suarez and Neymar Jr.

They have been performing terribly in Europe for the past two years as they were demoted to the UEFA Europa League after getting knocked out of UCL from the group stage for successive seasons.

The Catalan club couldn't perform up to mark in the Europa League and were beaten by Eintracht Frankfurt and Manchester United in 2021-22 and 2022-23 season respectively.