Xavi says under-fire midfielder Sergio Busquets remains "vital" to Barcelona, insisting his captain will make his own decision on whether to stay at Camp Nou next season.

Busquets was criticised for his performance as Barcelona fell to a 3-1 defeat to Clasico rivals Real Madrid on Sunday, having been replaced by Gavi on the hour mark at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The future of the 34-year-old, who has won 30 pieces of silverware during his decorated 14-year spell with the club, has been the subject of speculation, with his contract set to expire at the end of the season.

Xavi, however, still views the defensive midfielder as a crucial component in his side, saying: "When you lose, we are all exposed. For me, Busquets is still important. 

"There will be games in which he plays less or doesn't play, but he'll still be vital. Busi and the other captains add up. 

"We have a healthy dressing room and that makes me feel that things will end up working out. There's a good atmosphere and positivity." 

Reports have suggested Major League Soccer outfit Inter Miami are keen to take Busquets to the United States upon the expiration of his deal, and Xavi says his former team-mate will have the final say on his future.

"His contract ends, it's a reality and we'll see what happens throughout the season, how he feels and how he performs," Xavi added.

"It's a very personal decision of his. I also left Barcelona despite having an offer to renew. Nico [Gonzalez] and [Miralem] Pjanic decided to leave. 

"We have options; Frenkie [de Jong], Franck Kessie, or to try a central defender, which would not be the most advisable thing. That's why Busi is so important."

Barcelona are back in league action when they host Villarreal on Thursday, when they will bid to avenge May's 2-0 loss to the Yellow Submarine, their only defeat to Villarreal in the duo's last 26 league meetings (W19 D6).

Xavi demanded more "aggression" from his Barcelona players after a 3-1 Clasico defeat against Real Madrid on Sunday.

Barca were usurped at the summit of LaLiga as strikes from Karim Benzema and Federico Valverde and a late Rodrygo penalty sealed a comfortable win for Carlo Ancelotti's champions at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The defeat was Barca's first of the season in LaLiga and Xavi called for more from his players, starting with Thursday's clash against Villarreal.

"We're leaving empty-handed. We haven't taken advantage of our moments and Madrid have," he said.

"We weren't bad in the first half, but if we want to win this type of match, we have to change our mentality. 

"It worries me that we haven't been at our level of play. The first goal can't happen.

"We're in a situation that doesn't work out for us and we have to change it as of Thursday. I can't be happy with losing 3-1.

"We have been very good in the league but we have to improve our forcefulness and aggression.

"I don't think that the Inter game [in midweek] had an influence. Without playing a great game, we've had our moments to draw 1-1, 2-2, but when you don’t concentrate at the Bernabeu these things happen."

Barca now trail their rivals by three points and return to league action with the visit of Villarreal on Thursday.

Xavi brought Jules Kounde straight back into Barcelona's team for Sunday's Clasico clash with Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Kounde, a big-money signing from Sevilla, returned to training earlier this week after recovering from a hamstring issue sustained on international duty with France in September.

His return to the starting XI, which marks his Clasico debut, came at the expense of Gerard Pique, who was culpable for one of Inter's goals in Wednesday's 3-3 draw in the Champions League, which left Barca on the brink of an early exit from the competition.

Frenkie de Jong also came into the team, replacing Gavi, while Marcos Alonso made way for Alejandro Balde at left-back.

Xavi stuck with the same front three that started against Inter, with Ousmane Dembele and Raphinha flanking Robert Lewandowski, the latter two, like Kounde, making their Clasico debuts.

Lewandowski has scored six goals in eight meetings with Real Madrid, all in the Champions League, making him the player who has scored the most goals against Los Blancos in the history of that competition.

Sergio Busquets, meanwhile, will equal Francisco Gento (21 wins) as the player with the most victories in Clasico history in all competitions should Barca win.

Carlo Ancelotti was unable to call on goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who has failed to recover from injury in time to feature for the hosts, so Andriy Lunin retained his place.

Ancelotti was otherwise able to name what many would consider a first-choice XI, spearheaded by Karim Benzema, who has been involved in 20 goals in 38 Clasicos, a record only bettered by Lionel Messi in the 21st century (40).
 

Xavi understands the frustration of Barcelona fans on the back of their Champions League difficulties, but remains a "natural optimist".

Barca are in danger of failing to make the knockout stages of the Champions League for a second straight season after their 3-3 draw with Inter on Wednesday.

It left the Blaugrana on four points, eight adrift of Group C leaders Bayern Munich and three behind Inter with two games remaining.

Due to Inter's head-to-head record against the Catalan giants, the Serie A side will guarantee progression to the round of 16 with another three points from their two remaining matches.

Barca have enjoyed a strong start in LaLiga, winning seven of eight matches, and head into Sunday's Clasico against rivals Real Madrid ahead of the champions on goal difference at the top of the table.

Xavi, therefore, remains buoyed by the turnaround he has seen since taking over at Camp Nou 11 months ago, suggesting he would quit his post if he was not happy with the progress made.

"I understand the doubts, I know where I am. We couldn't afford to slip up in midweek, and we did," Xavi said in a press conference on Saturday.

"I understand how the Barca fans feel. I'm also disappointed and sad. I came here to turn the team around and we can manage that. 

"If I ever feel I'm not capable of doing that, I'll sit down here and I'll say so.

"That's the way I am, I'm a natural optimist. We've improved since last season. In LaLiga we're going well, we haven't lost a game yet.

"The season we're having makes me believe I have reason to remain optimistic.

"I will not stop working and insisting on what I do. The day I don't see it clearly, I'm going home. The day I don't think I'm a solution, I'll leave. It won't be a problem. But now I'm fine."

Xavi also stressed he has the backing of Barca president Joan Laporta, adding: "He conveyed total confidence to me. We've stood up to be counted in every game in Europe.

"The president is also very optimistic. The result the other day is a shame, as are the results in Milan and Munich. This year's Champions League has been cruel to us. But we're progressing well."

Recent Clasico history is not on Barca's side - they have lost five of their past six matches against Madrid in all competitions, as many defeats as they had suffered in their previous 18 meetings with Los Blancos.

Their only win in the last six games came in the second Clasico last season, though, and it was an emphatic 4-0 triumph at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Barcelona have "maximum" motivation for the Clasico, according to Xavi, who has urged the Blaugrana to "be brave and show personality" when they face Real Madrid on Sunday.

The two LaLiga heavyweights have set the early pace this season, with Barca edging their great rivals thanks to a superior goal difference after both earned 22 points from eight matches.

Those unbeaten records will be on the line when they go head-to-head at Santiago Bernabeu, where Xavi masterminded a stunning 4-0 victory in his first LaLiga Clasico as a coach back in March.

Tata Martino, in 2014, was the last Barca coach to win his first two Clasicos in LaLiga.

Former midfielder Xavi appeared in 42 Clasicos as a player – a tally only bettered by Lionel Messi and Sergio Ramos (both 45) – and enjoyed 17 victories with Barca while racking up five goals and eight assists.

Knowing exactly what is required in this fixture, he issued a rallying cry in his news conference on Saturday.

"I would like to remain a footballer to play these types of matches. It's spectacular to play such a game," Xavi said.

"This is where you have to stand up and be counted; as a coach, too. Everyone watches the Clasico and everyone's up for it. The motivation is maximum, it is an opportunity to come out more leaders of the competition.

"We need to play as a unit; we need to be compact, we need to be brave and show personality. The proof of [what you can achieve] is very clear; [look at] last year's game.

"The impact on morale if we come out of a game like this with a good result would be significant. But it's still early. We're still building; we need to keep going."

Xavi revealed left-back Marcos Alonso could partner Eric Garcia in the heart of defence as Barca look to keep Madrid's attacking options at bay, including seven-goal top scorer Vinicius Junior.

But when asked about combating Vinicius' threat, the Blaugrana coach insisted his side were not only concerned about the in-form Brazil international.

"It's not just Vinícius that we have to stop; it's also [Karim] Benzema, Rodrygo, [Federico] Valverde," Xavi added. "They're a competitive team who get the best out of their players.

"It's a huge game. It's not about how we stop Vinícius; it's about how we stop Madrid."

Joan Laporta has told Barcelona fans to "keep believing" as they head into El Clasico on Sunday looking to hit back from a midweek Champions League disappointment.

A 3-3 draw with Inter on Wednesday was a blow to Barca's hopes of reaching the round of 16, but a win against Real Madrid in one of the most anticipated fixtures in world football would be a perfect response.

The fierce rivals head into the match level on points, with the Catalan giants top of LaLiga by virtue of their superior goal difference.

Barca president Laporta urged supporters to maintain their faith in Xavi and his players, telling BarcaTV: "Keep believing. We have a very competitive team, with very good players who are going to bring you a lot of joy.

"Stick behind Xavi, he needs your warmth and confidence. That's what we will give him and we hope the fans do too.

"I have my full faith in Xavi and his staff, and also with the players. We have a great squad and I'm sure they'll bring us a lot of joy. We have a team to compete against anyone in Europe.

"We'll get through this. We won't ever stop working for what we want. This club has had all kinds of ups and downs over the years, but we have always bounced back. And we can still do that, from every part of the club."

Laporta acknowledged just how important Sunday's fixture could be in the title race, adding: "We're top of the league and there's a big game on the way at the Bernabeu.

"El Clasico is very important, whoever wins get a huge injection of morale and the loser takes a mighty blow. It's the kind of game you want to see. We'll go there with our heads held high. We have a team to do things there.

"I hope the players will defend the Barca shirt with the right spirit, because whenever you get knocked down, you have to pick yourself up again. We want to show how good we are and that we can win the league."

Laporta spoke of his frustration at not securing a win over Inter that would have put their chances of progressing in their own hands.

"It was a big game for us and I am sad and angry that we didn't win despite scoring three goals," Laporta said.

"It was always going to be a difficult group. We should have got a better result in Munich because we were the better team.

"And the refereeing in Milan was scandalous. We shouldn't play the victims card, but we were very unhappy with the match officials, and I spoke to UEFA about it afterwards.

"Financially, missing out on the latter stages of the Champions League is a big blow."

Xavi declared Barcelona "do not deserve" to progress in the Champions League after failing to beat Inter at home on Wednesday.

Robert Lewandowski took his tally to 14 goals in all competitions this season – only Erling Haaland has scored more in Europe's top five leagues – with two late equalisers in a thrilling 3-3 draw against Inter.

The Poland striker first levelled after Nicolo Barella and Lautaro Martinez put Inter in front following Ousmane Dembele's opener, before cancelling out Robin Gosens' 89th-minute strike three minutes later.

Lewandowski now has five goals in his first two Champions League games for Barca at Camp Nou, though that meant little to Xavi after Barca were left trailing Inter by three points with just two games to go.

"If you don't beat Inter at home you don't deserve to go on," the Blaugrana head coach told reporters, with Inter needing just one win from their final two games to progress and eliminate Barca.

"Now it doesn't depend on us anymore, we don't deserve to continue in the Champions League. It is a hard blow, very hard. The word would be cruel.

"If one player or the other makes a mistake as a manager, it's my responsibility. I take full responsibility when my players make mistakes.

"We had to stay focused and instead we went on the pitch badly in the second half, but it remains a mistake of the coach.

"In front of such extraordinary supporters, you had to do more. I'm disappointed and this competition is cruel to us."

The stalemate not only signalled the likely end of Barca's Champions League campaign this season, it also marked the first time in six games that Inter have avoided defeat at the Blaugrana in the competition.

Barca veteran Sergio Busquets echoed Xavi's sentiments, bemoaning the Blaugrana for failing to deliver after investing heavily in the last transfer window to bring in the likes of Lewandowski and Raphinha.

"A disappointment. It was a difficult group but we had to aspire to more after all the signings that have been made," Busquets said. "It is not mathematically [impossible] but it is very difficult.

"We have not been as forceful in the areas and that is paid for in the Champions League. It was heads or tails and it went wrong for us in that second half."

While Barca's hopes hang on the unlikely scenario of Inter losing against both Viktoria Plzen and Bayern Munich, who have already progressed, Xavi must now turn his attentions to Sunday's clash with Real Madrid.

"We think of [Real] Madrid [in Sunday's] Clasico tomorrow, it will not be easy to win, but we must think of the championship where we want to continue to be first in the standings.

"The season is long, we have not given the best for our mistakes and this is cruel. We must continue."

Xavi warned Barcelona they have "no margin for error" in Wednesday's Champions League meeting with Inter, declaring only a win will do for the Blaugrana at Camp Nou.

Hakan Calhanoglu's long-range strike condemned Barca to their second defeat in three Champions League outings last week, leaving them three points adrift of the Nerazzurri in Group C.

That defeat was just the second Barca have suffered in 11 Champions League meetings with Inter (W6 D3), but another reverse would see them eliminated if Bayern Munich avoid defeat to Viktoria Plzen.

The importance of the occasion was not lost on Xavi at his pre-match news conference, where the former midfielder outlined his team's desire for retribution.

"We expect an Inter very similar to the one in Milan. They will form the lower block, the middle block, we have alternatives, we have prepared them," Xavi said.

"It is a final, and we have no margin for error. With the help of the fans, we hope there will be a magical night.

"We must not lower our guard; there is talent, there is a desire for revenge, so we have to give everything so that the victory stays here.

"I would like to be a player tomorrow, I would rather be a player than a coach tomorrow. For me, it is a very good opportunity. We are motivated and hopeful."

Xavi described the decision to deny Pedri a second-half equaliser last week as an "injustice" after Ansu Fati was penalised for handball, but the Blaugrana coach says his team must make the officials' performances immaterial by improving.

"We had a logical outrage after the game, but that's it. Tomorrow it's time to play better," Xavi added. "If we improve the game, maybe we won't talk about the referees."

Inter's tally of 0.18 expected goals (xG) in last week's victory was the lowest of any team to have won a Champions League game this season, and Xavi knows Barcelona must remain patient in the return fixture.

"It's a game to be calm, to know how to position yourself, you don't have to score in minute one. We have to try not to feel the pressure, I always tell them that the pressure is on me," he added.

"You have to be patient, but if we attack like in the second half in Milan, I'm optimistic. We have to be more aggressive. Only three points are worth it for us, we have to be brave."

Meanwhile, Barcelona have been beset by defensive injuries recently, and while Jules Kounde is unlikely to feature on Wednesday, Xavi hopes he will return to face Real Madrid on Sunday.

"We don't count on him except for a surprise, for Sunday we will see. He can make it, but it will depend on his feelings," Xavi added. "I see him well, training hard, positive, my feeling is that he can make it to Sunday."

Barcelona head coach Xavi admits he must be "self-critical" about his side's recent drop in quality, but insists they will "see the positives" after victory over Celta Vigo.

A poached first-half finish from Pedri was enough for a 1-0 win for the Blaugrana to extend their winning run in LaLiga to seven consecutive games and take them back to the summit on goal difference ahead of Real Madrid.

Yet between their latest result and a similar narrow triumph against Mallorca, Barca appear to be fading away from their early bullish intensity, with a loss to Inter in the Champions League further compounding matters.

Speaking afterwards, Xavi acknowledged he was less than satisfied with his team's latest drop in temperament, but still highlighted the vitality of their ability to earn big results with unrewarding form.

"I have to be very self-critical today," he told DAZN. "The first half was good. In the second half, we stopped applying pressure; psychologically, we dropped off.

"It is important to take three points when you are not good though. We have won seven games in a row. You have to see the positives. Until an excellent performance arrives, you have to save these matches."

With El Clasico looming for likely control of the title race, Xavi seemed less pressed about concerns over form though, suggesting the all-encompassing nature of the fixture balances out both Madrid and themselves.

"El Clasico, it is unpredictable," he added. "Last year, we arrived on the back of a bad run of form, and yet we won 4-0. We will try to win and show personality, like we did last time."

Barcelona coach Xavi believes the club and Atletico Madrid have reached an agreement for the permanent transfer of Antoine Griezmann to Los Colchoneros.

Reports emerged earlier this week suggesting the two LaLiga giants had struck a €19.9million deal for the Frenchman, who is on loan at Atletico from Barca.

Griezmann made his return to Atletico on an initial temporary deal last year, with the two-year agreement set to become a permanent move for a reported €40m in 2023 if a specific clause was met.

The clause required Griezmann to play at least 30 minutes – not including stoppage time – in a percentage of Atletico's matches, though the exact proportion is unclear as some media outlets claim it is over 80 per cent and others suggest it is around 50 per cent.

Nevertheless, Atletico coach Diego Simeone had been carefully managing Griezmann's minutes seemingly to avoid triggering the €40m clause – the Frenchman has completed two full LaLiga games this term, and in his other six appearances he featured for no more than 30 minutes each time.

Atletico's tactics appears to have succeeded in getting Griezmann's price reduced considerably, with Xavi revealing an agreement was in place.

"The club tells me that they have reached an agreement, but it is not official," he told reporters on Saturday.

"If there is an agreement, all parties are happy. I wish the player the best."

Griezmann controversially joined Barca from Atletico in 2019 when the Blaugrana triggered his €120m release clause.

But in two full LaLiga campaigns at Camp Nou, Griezmann struggled to rediscover the form that attracted Barca to him in the first place, scoring 22 goals in 71 league games – he netted as many times in a single season on two separate occasions for Atletico in the past.

Although he was even less productive in front of goal upon his return to Atletico, scoring just three in 26 league outings last term, Simeone remains a strong advocate for the 31-year-old.

Xavi revealed Frenkie de Jong could start in defence on his return from injury when Barcelona welcome Celta Vigo in LaLiga.

The Blaugrana are aiming to remain at the LaLiga summit as they seek a response from the midweek Champions League defeat by Inter.

De Jong is back in the squad having missed his side's last two matches after sustaining a thigh injury while on international duty with the Netherlands last month.

Though he did not confirm the midfielder would start at Camp Nou, Xavi indicated he could fill in at centre-half in the absence of the likes of Ronald Araujo and Andreas Christensen.

When asked about De Jong at his pre-match press conference, the head coach said: "He's 100 per cent. We'll see what we decide tomorrow.

"Frenkie can play centre-back, we've already tried it. He is powerful and fast, but there are other alternatives. There is versatility in the dressing room."

One of those alternatives could be 19-year-old Chadi Riad, who would make his senior Barca debut should he feature against Vigo.

"We know him from last year and the pre-season," Xavi said. "He is aggressive, with good output ... he has a future. We follow him. He can prove things, he can become important."

Xavi also urged his players to lend leading marksman Robert Lewandowski a hand on the goalscoring front. 

The Poland skipper has scored nine of their 19 goals in LaLiga this term, with his nearest challengers Ansu Fati and Ousmane Dembele both netting just twice apiece thus far.

"We have to improve the goals without him," the head coach observed. "And also improve fouls, shoot from outside the area... everyone must contribute goals. We have to improve the scoring ability of those at the top.

"We need to shoot more when we have the ball, find that final pass, find the right solutions. We must improve and be more competitive. You have to be more optimistic in front of goal."

 

 

 

Miralem Pjanic has hit out at former Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman, claiming training sessions lacked intensity, tactics and ideas during the Dutchman's spell at Camp Nou.

Pjanic made 19 league appearances for Barcelona in the 2020-21 season after joining from Juventus, spending the last campaign on loan at Besiktas before joining Emirati outfit Sharjah last month.

The Bosnia and Herzegovina international has been critical of Koeman in the past, accusing the Dutchman of "disrespecting" him following his move to Turkey in September 2021.

Speaking to Cadena Ser on Friday, Pjanic attacked Koeman's methods once more, saying: "I was very surprised in training with Koeman.

"There was no intensity, no tactics, no ideas. We did not prepare for the games."

 

Pjanic spent his most recent pre-season at Barcelona under Koeman's successor Xavi, and was far more enthusiastic in his assessment of the current Blaugrana coach.

"Preparation and training was good under Xavi, similar to what I was used to at Juventus, for example, where we won everything," Pjanic added.

"Now the sessions at Barca have a lot of intensity. Xavi and his staff were very clear with us at the start of the season. They told us this year we would have to run and go 2000 miles per hour.

"Every day is like a game in training at Barcelona now, because there is so much quality in the squad and a lot of intensity."

Xavi has led Barca to an unbeaten start to the season in LaLiga, having overseen a second-placed finish after taking over from Koeman midway through last season. 

Thierry Henry questioned why Barcelona were not awarded a penalty in their contentious 1-0 loss to Inter despite "20 billion cameras" spotting Denzel Dumfries' handball.

Inter claimed a valuable victory at San Siro in Tuesday's Champions League tie through Hakan Calhanoglu's brilliant first-half strike.

But Barca were left furious after a Pedri equaliser was ruled out by VAR for handball against Ansu Fati in the build-up, before having a late penalty call rejected.

A cross towards Fati was cut out by the hand of Dumfries, but Slovenian referee Slavko Vincic and his officials decided against awarding the visitors a stoppage-time penalty.

It is a decision that left Xavi furious, with the Barca boss already on a yellow card for protesting the disallowed goal, and one the Catalans will reportedly formally complain about.

Speaking alongside referee consultant Christina Unkel, who was trying to defend the decision, former Barcelona striker Henry ridiculed VAR's inability to spot the handball.

"[Dumfries] takes the ball away from Ansu Fati," he told CBS. "I usually never say anything about disallowed goals.

"But Christina, do you, the referees, have the right to sometimes say that you were wrong? Are you ever taught to say you were wrong?

"He was wrong, bye. There is nothing to explain. He was wrong. It happens. It happened to me, it happens to many people. He was wrong. 

"The guy in the truck [VAR official] didn't call the ref. I don't know what experience he has, but even my son could have seen there was a hand. 

"He would have seen it. He saw it, he even texted me to say, 'There's a hand'. You've got 20 billion cameras and you can't see it? Please! It happens but it was wrong."

The defeat could be damaging for Barca as they now trail second-placed Inter by three points at the halfway stage in Group C, with leaders Bayern Munich six points better off.

Xavi, who became the first Barca coach to lose his first three away Champions League games, was "outraged" by the display of the match officials.

"First they explain to us that Ansu handled but another team-mate scored, then with the other incident, it is not clear what happened," he said at his post-match press conference.

"It is my opinion. I would have liked to speak to the referee, because he did not blow the whistle. At the moment, I am outraged, it is an injustice and it makes no sense.

"Now we still have three finals left, we have already lost in Munich and we start again. But there is indignation.

"In general, it was a great injustice. The referee should give explanations, instead he goes away and nothing happens. He has to come here and explain."

Barcelona welcome Inter to Camp Nou next week before concluding their group-stage campaign with a home match against Bayern and a trip to bottom side Viktoria Plzen.

Xavi was "outraged" as his Barcelona side saw a goal disallowed and an injury-time penalty not given in their 1-0 Champions League defeat to Inter.

After Hakan Calhanoglu put the Nerazzurri in front in first-half stoppage time at San Siro, Barcelona thought they had levelled when Pedri turned home from close range in the 66th minute.

However, the goal was disallowed after replays showed Inter goalkeeper Andre Onana had tipped Ousmane Dembele's cross onto Ansu Fati's arm before Pedri tapped in.

Inter were again fortunate late on, when VAR initiated a penalty check after the ball appeared to strike Denzel Dumfries' arm in the box. Much to Barcelona's anger, a spot-kick was not awarded.

The hosts held on to claim three points, making Xavi the first Barca coach to lose his first three Champions League away games in charge of the club.

Yet all of his frustration was saved for the officials, with Xavi telling reporters: "I am outraged.

"First they explain to us that Ansu Fati handled but another team-mate scored, then with the other incident, it is not clear what happened.

"It is my opinion, I would have liked to speak to the referee, because he did not blow the whistle. At the moment, I am outraged, it is an injustice and it makes no sense.

"Now we still have three finals left, we have already lost in Munich and we start again. But there is indignation.

"In general, it was a great injustice. I can't hide and say I'm not outraged, it's a great injustice. The referee should give explanations, instead he goes away and nothing happens. He has to come here and explain."

Despite what he perceived as poor refereeing from Slavko Vincic, Xavi acknowledged that officiating alone was not to blame for the defeat.

"We struggled in rhythm, in the circulation of the ball and in the last half hour we played better, we found good areas on the wing," he added.

"We tried, we want to attack and we paid for the first half, we lacked a bit of rhythm. We need to be self-critical, beyond referee decisions.

"The first half was not up to the Champions League. We talked about it at half-time, we needed more rhythm in the exchange of the ball and I think the second half was positive."

Xavi will not be on a revenge mission when Barcelona face Inter in a "very important" Champions League showdown at San Siro on Tuesday.

Head coach Xavi was in the Barca side knocked out of the Champions League by Inter at the semi-final stage in 2010.

The Blaugrana were beaten 3-1 in the first leg in Milan and failed to overturn that deficit, crashing out after winning 1-0 at Camp Nou against Jose Mourinho's men, who went on to lift the trophy.

Xavi returns to San Siro with the two sides both having picked up three points from their opening two Group C games, with Barca beaten 2-0 at leaders Bayern Munich last month.

And the former Spain midfielder is motivated by the prospect of qualifying for the last 16 rather than having a score to settle.

He said: "I have no feeling of [wanting] revenge. I come here as a coach this time. I remember that we had to travel by bus [to Milan] because of the volcano, but they were a great team.

"It was difficult for us in the first leg. We lost it here. It was a controversial tie, but this is how it is. It's a bitter memory for us, unfortunately."

Inter boss Simone Inzaghi is under pressure with his side ninth in Serie A following back-to-back defeats to Udinese and Roma.

But Xavi is not reading anything into the Nerazzurri's poor form, as he knows they have the quality to turn things around.

"It's not significant," he said. "It's Inter, a very strong team. They have a different system to anything we've come across so far.

"They play with two strikers, something you don't see too much in Spain. They're a tough opponent, with good dynamics, but that has to be shown."

Xavi added: "I have it quite clear. Despite the size of the rival, we are clear that we want to dominate. It is an important rival. It is the Champions League. It is not a definitive match, but it is very important for the future of the group."

Inter have won just two of their 14 European matches against Barcelona, a 2-1 victory in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in January 1970 and that 3-1 Champions League triumph in April 2010.

However, Barca's only two away wins against the Nerazzurri came 60 years apart, winning 4-2 in the Fairs Cup in September 1959 and 2-1 in the Champions League in December 2019.

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