'Dreaming is free, so why can't we win?' – Xavi says Barcelona can be Champions League kings again

By Sports Desk September 06, 2022

Xavi believes Barcelona can end an eight-year wait for Champions League glory this season as he told his players to "dream" of lifting the trophy.

The head coach sends his side into their opener against Viktoria Plzen on Wednesday, desperate for them to avoid a repeat of the last campaign's group-stage exit.

Barcelona finished behind Bayern Munich and Benfica, with Xavi appointed midway through that group campaign after Ronald Koeman was sacked.

The serious damage had been done by a 3-0 loss at Benfica, and Xavi could not drag Barcelona through to the knockout rounds.

However, he has had two busy transfer windows since then and Barcelona are a new-look and refreshed team, with much of their previous baggage shaken off.

Last season's failure in Europe inevitably hurt more when Barcelona's great rivals Real Madrid went on to beat Liverpool in the final, but Xavi wants to move on.

"The main target now is to get through the group stage," said Xavi, "then we'll see.

"Dreaming is free so why can't we win this competition? But we have to start by taking the three points tomorrow."

Xavi was a substitute in the final of the 2014-15 Champions League when Barcelona beat Juventus 3-1 in Berlin, thanks to goals from Ivan Rakitic, Luis Suarez and Neymar.

Now directing matters from the touchline, he is reluctant to predict how Barcelona will fare, but says there is no harm in having lofty goals.

"We are going to compete and dream of winning the Champions League, otherwise I wouldn't be here," Xavi said. "I want to win. We have to be very humble. Since 2015 we haven't won the Champions League and last year we went into the Europa League.

"You have to think that every game is going to be a war. We have had a very difficult group."

With Bayern and Inter alongside Barcelona and Plzen in Group C, Xavi's remark certainly stands up to scrutiny. Although it may not play out this way, Plzen will be seen as the team the big three must beat, before thrashing out the top places.

Xavi spoke highly of Plzen's counter-attacking qualities, but anything other than three points at Camp Nou would be majorly anti-climactic.

"This is the Champions League and we want to start well. It is the most difficult group in recent years, but we want to go through and reach the last 16," Xavi said.

The Barcelona boss will look towards Robert Lewandowski to propel the Catalans through to the knockout rounds, after his previous success for Bayern in the competition.

Lewandowski has scored more goals than any other player in the Champions League across the last three seasons, with 33 goals in 26 games.

Should he score against Plzen, it would make him only the third player to score for both Barcelona and Bayern in the competition, after Mark van Bommel and Philippe Coutinho.

Lewandowski netted nine goals in five home games for Bayern in the Champions League last season, which might augur well for Wednesday.

Xavi will be without Miralem Pjanic, with the midfielder bound for Sharjah FC, and is set to make changes from the side that beat Sevilla 3-0 in LaLiga on Saturday.

"There will be rotation," Xavi said, confirming the likes of Jordi Alba and Ansu Fati could step up from their weekend substitute roles. "There is tiredness and discomfort. The match against Sevilla was a war.

"Let's compete in the Champions League and dream of winning it. In our history we have won it five times. We'll try to compete to go as far as we can."

Related items

  • Bellingham voted LaLiga Player of the Season Bellingham voted LaLiga Player of the Season

    Real Madrid midfielder Jude Bellingham has been voted LaLiga's Player of the Season after playing a pivotal role in leading the club to their 36th league title.

    Bellingham edged out team-mate Vinicius Junior, Atletico Madrid's Antoine Griezmann, Girona's Artem Dovbyk and Barcelona's Robert Lewandowski in votes cast by fans, club captains and a panel of experts.

    He scored 19 goals and had six assists in 28 league games this season, tallying 23 goals and 12 assists in all competitions in his first campaign with Los Blancos.

    Bellingham, who could not attend Tuesday's ceremony in Sardinia as he is preparing for the Champions League final at Wembley against his former club Borussia Dortmund, said he was honoured to have received the award.

    "I would like to dedicate it to my team-mates, the coaching staff and, most importantly, to the fans of the best club in the world," he said in a message. 

    "It's a pleasure every time I play for this team. Hala Madrid!"

    The England star also won the 2022-23 Bundesliga Player of the Season prize while playing for Dortmund before moving to Real for a fee of around €103million.

    Earlier on Tuesday, Dortmund sporting director Sebastian Kehl was full of praise for Bellingham.

    "I know how strong Jude is and I know his personality very much, so he's an amazing player, an amazing character and of course, he will do everything to win that final," he said.

  • Austin FC v Portland Timbers: Neville wants more from improving visitors Austin FC v Portland Timbers: Neville wants more from improving visitors

    Phil Neville is pleased with the Portland Timbers' recent form but admits they still have a lot to work on as they prepare to face Austin FC on Wednesday.

    After a run of nine games without a win in MLS, Portland have now won two of their last three outings, beating Sporting Kansas City 2-1 on Saturday.

    That win moved them up to 16 points in the Western Conference, and the Timbers are now just one point behind the ninth-placed Seattle Sounders in a playoff place.

    Neville was pleased with his side's reaction to a recent defeat to Minnesota United and is looking forward to building on their upturn.

    "We've got two wins out of [last] three and it's what we expect, what we want. We want to keep improving. I think we've seen improvements over the last two or three weeks," he said.

    "This group cares, this club cares for its players. And you can never kid a supporter and I think ours realise that we need their help - they did it against [Sporting Kansas City].

    "We're building some momentum and it's a nine-point week, a week where you can move. It's a week where you can gain momentum.

    "Every game in this league is difficult and now we've got to go on the road to one of the top teams and get a result there."

    Austin are unbeaten in their last three matches and sit in fifth place with 23 points. Josh Wolff's side can keep the pressure on the teams above them with another three points at home.

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Austin FC – Brendan Hines-Ike

    Austin attempted just five shots in their draw with San Jose on Saturday, scoring with their only shot on target, a Brendan Hines-Ike header in the 44th minute. It was the first goal the defender has scored this season.

    Portland Timbers – Evander

    Evander recorded a goal and an assist in the Timbers' win over Sporting Kansas City on Saturday, his fourth game with at least one of each this year.

    He is the second Timbers player with four games with a goal and an assist in a single season after Diego Valeri, who did so three times (2013, 2017, 2019).

    MATCH PREDICTION – AUSTIN FC WIN

    Austin have won five straight home matches for the first time in club history. Austin have scored in 20 straight home matches in all competitions dating back to last May 31, also the longest streak in club history.

    Portland have won four of their last five matches against Austin (one draw) after the Verde won each of the first two meetings. The Timbers have won on their last two visits to Austin, having only managed two wins in their other 30 regular-season matches in Texas.

    However, the Timbers are winless in seven straight away matches (two draws, five defeats) including losing the last three in a row. Portland have not had a longer road losing streak in over five years, since losing five straight on their travels in March-April 2019.

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    Austin FC – 42.4%

    Draw – 24.8%

    Portland Timbers – 32.8%

  • Chicago Fire v Orlando City: Lack of goals concerning for Pareja Chicago Fire v Orlando City: Lack of goals concerning for Pareja

    Oscar Pareja has admitted Orlando City's lack of goals in recent weeks is a cause for concern as they aim to change that against the Chicago Fire on Wednesday.

    The Lions have won two of their last five matches but alternated between hitting the back of the net and failing to score during that run, getting shut out by Columbus Crew on Saturday.

    Orlando are currently 10th in the Eastern Conference, two points off the playoffs, and Pareja hopes his side can add a more clinical edge against Chicago to close that gap.

    "[Not scoring] is a concern, especially when you don't have the accuracy to cross or to find somebody in the box. Or if somebody is in the box but isn't precise to finish it off," Pareja said.

    "The concern in the week is how can we polish them. But we have scored before, and we were collecting some games where the strikers start scoring. It's day by day, but today we need to be worried about it."

    Chicago sit second from the bottom with just 11 points after only winning two games this season.

    The Fire have failed to win any of their previous eight matches but snapped a four-game losing streak with their 1-1 draw against D.C. United at the weekend.

    "It's about consistency now to keep going," Frank Klopas said. "We have the level, we've shown it.

    "We've got to do it consistently, but [Saturday] was a step in the right direction with the attitude, the mentality, the fight with the group and playing really good football and creating good chances.

    "[One] step at a time, we take it, we regroup, and now we need to come out with even more energy on Wednesday."

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Chicago Fire – Kellyn Acosta

    Acosta scored his second goal for the Fire on Saturday, with both coming from outside the box. The American has scored eight goals from outside the box in his regular-season MLS career, with four coming from his right foot and four from his left.

    Orlando City – Nicolas Lodeiro

    Orlando have scored nine goals on the road this season, with Lodeiro recording assists on five of them. Lodeiro has 38 career regular-season assists on the road, the most among active MLS players and seventh-most in MLS history.

    MATCH PREDICTION – ORLANDO CITY WIN

    Orlando have won four of their last five meetings with the Fire (one draw), including the last three in a row. Prior to this run, Orlando had won just three of 14 matches against Chicago (five draws, six losses) in all competitions since joining MLS in 2015.

    Orlando have also won three of their last four regular-season road games (one draw), including back-to-back wins over the Philadelphia Union and San Jose Earthquakes. This is the Lions' ninth set of consecutive away wins in MLS league play, though they've never won three in a row on the road before.

    Meanwhile, Chicago ended a four-match losing streak with a 1-1 draw against D.C. United on Saturday. Still, the Fire have a club record-low 11 points after 15 matches, a total only one team since 2000 has overcome to reach the playoffs: Inter Miami in the extended playoffs of 2020.

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    Chicago Fire – 32.1%

    Draw – 27.9%

    Orlando City – 40%

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.