Group H leaders Barcelona moved a step closer to reaching the Champions League knockout stages after a 2-1 victory over Shakhtar Donetsk.

Barca made it three wins from as many matches through goals from Ferran Torres and Fermin Lopez before they held on in the second half after Heorhiy Sudakov’s 62nd-minute strike.

Xavi’s men produced moments of quality with a rotated side ahead of Saturday’s El Clasico against Real Madrid at Nou Camp in LaLiga.

Barca nearly had a dream start after seven minutes. Oriol Romeu’s high press forced the turnover in Shakhtar’s box which allowed Lopez to jink inside and shoot, but the midfielder’s effort was kept out by Dmytro Riznyk.

Barca’s persistence paid off when they opened the scoring in the 28th minute through Torres.

Lopez picked up another dangerous position inside the box and his effort cannoned off the post into the path of Torres who smashed home.

VAR initially deemed the goal offside but the ruling was overturned after Lopez held his run long enough.

And the potent Lopez doubled Barca’s lead in the 36th minute in spectacular fashion.

The La Masia youth product marauded into the open space from midfield, beat his man with a feint before producing a rocket on his right foot which saw the ball smash off the post into the back of the net.

The goal, which was Lopez’s second of the season, was completely deserved after the 20-year-old dazzled in the first half under the lights at Nou Camp.

The LaLiga champions started where they left off in the second half and came close through Joao Felix, who was denied by Riznyk from a tight angle.

The visitors persisted in their plan of playing out from the back which encouraged blue and red shirts to swarm them in possession as they struggled to deal with the relentless Barca press.

But Shakhtar stunned Xavi’s men when they struck against the run of play to make it 2-1.

Felix lost possession and Shakhtar advanced into the Barca half through Irakli Azarovi who picked out the rapid Sudakov and he ghosted past Romeu and held his nerve with a blasted effort past Marc-Andre Ter Stegen.

Moments after Lopez hit the post in the 68th minute, his headed effort was ruled offside as Barca tried for a third.

Xavi has urged Barcelona to “recover our ideology” before beginning a critical week of their season.

Barcelona have three home games in the space of six days, starting against Athletic Bilbao in LaLiga on Sunday.

Shakhtar Donetsk provide Champions League opposition on Wednesday and Real Madrid make the trip to the Nou Camp next Saturday for the first El Clasico of the season.

As LaLiga returns following the international break, leaders Real held a three-point advantage over Barcelona.

“At the start of the season, we’ve had some great moments of playing well,” said Xavi, whose side have dropped points in two of their last three league games with 2-2 draws against Mallorca and Granada.

“We must recover our ideology and get the three points by playing well.

“We are in a situation with a lot of absentees, but it won’t be an excuse for the game and to be able to play well.”

Alejandro Balde and Lamine Yamal have both been declared fit for the Bilbao clash.

But Frenkie de Jong, Jules Kounde, Pedri, Raphinha, Robert Lewandowski and Sergi Roberto remain unavailable.

Lewandowski, Barca’s top scorer with six this season, is closing in on a return after ankle trouble and Xavi said the Poland forward “has a very good feeling” of returning against Real Madrid.

Xavi said: “He’s a great leader and always goes forward, he wants to be there and he’s hurting less and less every day.

“He has a very good feeling. He always pulls himself forward.

“But there is a lot of variety (in attack) and people with confidence in front of goal. That is great. Last year, we depended a lot on Lewandowski.”

On the potential return of other individuals, Xavi added: “The player’s feelings will tell when he will arrive. We won’t force anyone.

“Feelings are the key and they will mark the return of all of them.”

Bilbao began the weekend in fifth place, four points behind Barcelona after beating Almeria 3-0 before the international break.

The Basques side are managed by Ernesto Valverde, who won two LaLa titles and a Copa Del Rey during his time in charge of Barcelona between May 2017 and January 2020.

Xavi said: “Athletic are very strong physically and technically gifted. Valverde is a great coach and likes to press high.

“I’m expecting a difficult opponent, we have some injuries but that’s no excuse and we need our fans.

“We’re three points behind the leaders. But we have to keep working hard, to keep fighting, and to keep improving, because there is a long way to go in LaLiga.”

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.