FC Barcelona head coach Xavi Hernandez has spoken about his team’s Champions League aspirations ahead of their debut in the competition against Royal Antwerp on Tuesday.
Xavi said that Barca enter the competition in “the perfect scenario”.
“We start at home after [showing the] best version of our game,” he added, in reference to Saturday’s 5-0 demolition of Real Betis in La Liga, “and we want to give it continuity”.
Xavi has overseen back-to-back failures in not successfully qualifying out of the group, but he argued that he didn’t have a team that made Barca able to compete in his first attempt.
“Last year [the squad] allowed us to compete but the results were not given. This season we want to make the leap,” Xavi stated.
Not wanting to get ahead of himself and talk about the Catalans winning the whole thing for the first time since 2015, when he was captain, Xavi said: “The objective is clear, it is to pass the group, then we will talk.”
“We have to be in the last 16. It is our main objective after two years without doing it. It is the clear objective, to try to pass first in the group [stage]”.
Asked if there was pressure on him to deliver, Xavi answered “always”.
“This is Barca. We all have extraordinary pressure, but it’s a challenge and I like challenges. These are challenges that I set myself as a coach and as a team. Convince the players and transfer the hope to them to give the maximum [effort].”
Xavi demands two things from the players himself: to improve in the competition and to win.
“We must improve and compete better. The main objective is to reach the last 16 and play well. Saturday [against Betis] is proof that we can compete by playing that way. Then in the knockout phase we will see, but we have to pass [the group stage] first.”
“The bar is very high. It is the consequence of the Barca of recent years, of our stage as players where we won four Champions League from 2006 to 2015.
“We like challenges but the demand of Barca is beastly. It is the consequence of inheriting a brilliant era, the best in the history of this club,” Xavi concluded.