Barcelona will face Manchester United in the Europa League playoff on Thursday evening, in a tie that was much more familiar in Champions League finals a decade ago. It is something that grates on Xavi Hernandez.
“It still makes me angry to listen to the Champions League anthem from home,” Xavi remarked in his pre-match press conference.
“But we have to face reality. We are excited about this competition, which has been very beautiful for the teams that have remained.”
“It’s always important, and more so in Europe, since we’re coming off a few seasons without success. It’s a good test, without a doubt, to see that we can compete in Europe.”
That was a message Xavi was keen to underline, that this was a chance for Barcelona to prove themselves in European competition, having been knocked out at the group stage of the Champions League for two seasons running.
Barcelona conceded in every game in that group stage, but on the flipside have let in just 7 goals in La Liga. The Barcelona manager was asked why the difference was so stark.
“We try to ensure there are not any differences, but it is true that we were not at the level that Europe requires. We want to show that we are coming into this at a good time, that we are working to improve our defence.”
He was also asked if Manchester United were at the level of the Champions League, but Xavi dismissed the idea.
“A Champions League team? Neither one nor the other have won the right to be in the Champions League, so it is unfair to say this. But it is a very strong Manchester, and it was about time we see a Manchester like that.”
Barcelona face United top of the table in La Liga, but as they return to European competition and Copa del Rey action at the end of the month, meaning their squad will be stretched. This first leg will take place without the presence of Sergio Busquets or Ousmane Dembele.
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