Not getting ahead of himself, Barcelona manager Xavi has set his team’s objective for the 2023-24 UEFA Champions League season, saying that their primary goal is to ensure knockout football.
One of the most successful teams in UEFA Champions League history, Barcelona, have not won the competition since 2015. To make matters worse, they failed to cross the group stage in the last two iterations, finishing third and being demoted to the UEFA Europa League. They underperformed in that competition as well, getting knocked out in the playoffs in the 2022-23 season.
Barcelona Looking To Take It One Step At A Time In Champion League
Ahead of their 2023-24 UEFA Champions League opener against Royal Antwerp on Tuesday (September 19), Xavi was asked about Barcelona’s aspirations this season. The Spanish tactician, whose team secured a 5-0 win over Real Betis over the weekend, said that his team were heading into the competition in the best shape and would first look to cross the group-stage hurdle.
“We start at home after [showing the] best version of our game and we want to give it continuity,” said Xavi (via Forbes).
“Last year [the squad] allowed us to compete but the results were not given. This season we want to make the leap. 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].”
???? Xavi greets the players after the game
— Barça Spaces (@BarcaSpaces) September 17, 2023
Xavi Admits There Is Always Pressure On Him
Xavi was also asked whether or not he felt the weight of expectations on him.
He responded saying:
“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].
“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.”
Xavi concluded by adding:
“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.”