Xavi focusing on Champions League qualification goal in Europa League

By Sports Desk March 16, 2022

Xavi insisted Barcelona will focus on winning the Europa League as a means to qualify the Champions League, while declaring the clash with Galatasaray on Thursday as a "final".

Barca were held to a 0-0 draw in the first leg of their Europa League last-16 clash with Galatasaray, setting up a winner-takes-all decider in Istanbul.

The Blaugrana have progressed from seven of their last eight ties in the UEFA Cup and Europa League last 16, with their only elimination at this stage coming in 2003-04 (1-0 on aggregate versus Celtic).

Turkish side Gala have also only won one of their previous nine meetings with Barcelona across all competitions (D3 L5), with that lone victory coming in November 1994 in the Champions League (2-1).

Barca head coach Xavi sees the competition as a perfect chance to qualify for the Champions League, despite his side being likely to qualify via finishing in Spain's top four - currently sitting third in the league.

"For us the main objective is to be in the Champions League," he told reporters at Wednesday's pre-match news conference. 

"Now we are in the Europa League, which if we win it would give us access to the Champions League. We are very excited, even if it is the Europa League, we are really looking forward to it.

"For us it's a final [against Galatasaray], it's heads or tails. The first part of the first leg was not good, we didn't come out with intensity.

"The example should be the [4-0 win] over Osasuna, where we were intense and we soon managed to get ahead.

"This is a final, in a stadium where they cheer and shout more. We have to try to do what we already did [at Napoli]."

Barca face a decisive week, with the trip to Galatasaray preceding El Clasico in LaLiga as they battle Real Madrid on Sunday, but Xavi feels he is capable of handling the pressure.

"I take the pressure naturally, I like it. I'm very competitive, I'm a winner and we like to experience these situations," he added. 

"We didn't have the best result in the first leg, but I see it as an opportunity. We're in the same situation of the game in Naples and from there we came out very strong.

"This is Europe and nobody is going to give you anything. The fitness issues, above all, are the inconvenience [this week]. We try to make a specific plan so that the players who play can recover in time for Sunday."

Barca are reportedly pursuing Erling Haaland, who Xavi was said to have met in Munich, but the Norwegian could end up at Real Madrid, as well as Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe.

Asked how he would respond to the attacking stars heading to the Spanish capital, Xavi responded: "We're working on the present - we want to win and go through to the next round.

"The club is working on the future team, but the team is still more important than individual players. If they add to the team and make us better, that will be great but the team will always prevail."

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