Robert Lewandowski has been blown away by Barcelona's flood of teenage talent and believes there is no better place for young footballers to blossom.

The 34-year-old Poland captain was brought in from Bayern Munich to provide a quick fix and give Barcelona a reliable goalscorer in the short term.

But there is long-term vision at Barcelona too, with the likes of Pedri, Gavi, Ansu Fati and Alejandro Balde all emerging as first-team players while still in their teens.

Pedri arrived from Las Palmas in 2020 and was quickly assimilated into the senior set-up, bypassing the system at La Masia, the Barcelona academy, because he was considered so advanced already.

Most have come through years of training in the academy system, however, which is churning out top-class footballers at a rapid rate.

Lewandowski counts on such players as team-mates now, and says their style of play, having been training to follow Barcelona principles, is "noticeably distinct" to other youngsters in the game.

"I'm impressed by the fact of how at that age one could be so mature in football," Lewandowski said, speaking to Polish online sport channel Kanal Sportowy.

"I don't mean mature mentally. I meant if they thought differently about football. I wouldn't even compare it, if there are any differences there.

"A man can't change his age. People abroad who are 18 years old can't think as it they were 26. People here live and grow in the same way. However, thanks to these academies it's much easier for them.

"Being well trained at the age of 18 and really talented, they may reach a higher level. Additionally, they're really familiar with the world of football which Polish players miss."

Lewandowski opened up on a host of themes in the interview, and said he intended to stay involved in sport once his playing days are over.

He might find a coaching role one day, and his experiences in Barcelona should stand him in good stead.

"It's the best possibility for a young player, to be able to observe experienced football players in order to become one of them in the future," said Lewandowski.

Such players also point to a bright future for the Spain national team, with the emergence of a possible new golden generation.

At first-team level, Barcelona are attempting to knock Real Madrid off their perch.

Madrid won last season's LaLiga title and added the Champions League to boot, while Xavi's mid-season arrival began to turn around a Barcelona team who made a rocky start under former head coach Ronald Koeman.

Xavi's Barcelona are level on 19 points with Madrid through the first seven rounds of this campaign, and the two current co-leaders will face off at the Santiago Bernabeu on October 16 in the season's first Clasico.

Lewandowski hit the only goal at Real Mallorca on Saturday, with a hard-fought 1-0 win showing Barcelona have tenacity to complement their more obvious flair.

The close-season recruit said he was "positively astonished" with how intense his early training experiences had been at Barcelona, after last season's "tough" experience for the club.

Lewandowski is confident Xavi has a firm grip on what needs to be done to turn Barcelona into trophy winners again.

"He's aware of what went wrong in the last season, in contrary to what he dreamed of, and I see that he wants to make it better," Lewandowski said.

"Mentally they were really focused, but their bodies couldn't manage. I think that with every week and every match, we'll be growing, and I strongly believe that with time it'll get better."

Xavi made LaLiga history as Barcelona extended their unbeaten away record during his reign to 18 games, but the coach saw room for improvement in a 1-0 win at Real Mallorca.

The victory moved Xavi past Zinedine Zidane for the best unbeaten start away from home by a coach in the Spanish top flight, with the Frenchman having reached 17 games (W13 D4) in the competition without a defeat on the road in 2016 at Real Madrid.

Xavi's streak includes 13 wins and five draws, but Mallorca pushed Barcelona hard, and goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen had to be sharp to preserve another clean sheet.

That is five consecutive shut-outs for Barcelona in LaLiga, and Saturday's victory took them to the top of LaLiga with 19 points from seven games.

Real Madrid, due to play Osasuna on Sunday, have launched their title defence with six consecutive wins and are set to have the chance to reclaim top spot.

The first Clasico of the season is just two weeks away, however, and this early-season rivalry is boiling up nicely before that meeting at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Xavi said of his team's win, which was secured by Robert Lewandowski's ninth goal in seven league games: "It was a very complicated game. These are three very important points, especially after the [international] break.

"In games like this, if you don't score the second [goal], it can become complicated. We've done well by showing patience and calmness."

He added: "It was difficult for us. In the first half we were good, in the second [our level] went down and we can't allow that. We have to go for the second goal and be more ambitious."

 

The away run is something that Xavi takes pride in rather than shying away from, and he sees it as a step towards something more significant.

"It's an important record that hopefully translates into titles," he said. "If it translates into titles, it tastes better, but since there aren't any, it's anecdotal."

That much is true, and it might be that Barcelona need Lewandowski to stay prolific throughout the campaign if they are to topple Madrid from their perch.

"Once again he made the difference," said Xavi, who also added praise for Barcelona's defence in a game in which they were given plenty to do.

Mallorca had a higher expected goals (xG) total than Barcelona (1.0 to 0.7), reflecting the quality and number of their chances. The hosts edged the shot count 13-11 too, with Lee Kang-in going close to a late leveller.

"It was a solid game, without shining, but we took three very important points," Xavi said.

Lewandowski has reached nine goals in his LaLiga career quicker than any player in history. He might get to 10, 11, 12, and goodness knows how many more goals quicker than anybody too, such has been his smooth transition from Bayern Munich to Barcelona.

"He's a goalscorer, a top player, one of the best players in the world, if not the best," Xavi said. "In addition to scoring, there is how he works, presses, instructs others and talks to team-mates."

Robert Lewandowski chalked up a LaLiga record as his ninth goal of the season gave Barcelona a 1-0 win at Real Mallorca, taking Xavi's team to the top of LaLiga.

The match-winning strike from Lewandowski made him the fastest player to reach nine goals in the Spanish top flight in the 21st century, with this just his seventh game since arriving from Bayern Munich.

Real Madrid can reassert themselves as leaders when they face Osasuna on Sunday, but the sight of Barca at the summit, however fleetingly, points to the prospect of a fierce title battle.

There was plenty to satisfy coach Xavi, including a first domestic league start of the season for Ansu Fati, even if his team had to settle for a slender victory margin.

Lewandowski put Barcelona ahead in the 20th minute, collecting a pass from Ansu Fati and racing in from the left. He cut back cleverly onto his right foot to make space, cracking a powerful low shot into the far corner.

The Pole had another chance shortly after but could not apply power to his finish after being picked out by Sergio Busquets with a smart first-time pass.

Mallorca went close to a leveller when Jaume Costa tested Marc-Andre ter Stegen after good persistence on the right flank from Antonio Sanchez.

Sanchez forced another save from Ter Stegen soon after the break with a vicious cross-shot, while at the other end Franck Kessie sent a 25-yard drive just wide after good work from Fati.

Kessie and Fati made way midway through the half as Xavi brought on Pedri and Raphinha, emphasising Barcelona's squad depth.

Pedri, Gavi and Raphinha almost combined for a fantasy goal, but Barcelona ultimately did not need a second.

Pedri revealed Luis Enrique's Spain view themselves among the favourites to win the upcoming World Cup in Qatar. 

La Roja have endured two disappointing World Cup campaigns since winning the trophy in 2010, being dumped out in 2014's group stage before suffering a last-16 penalty shoot-out loss to hosts Russia four years later.

However, the emergence of several young talents – including Pedri and fellow Barcelona midfielder Gavi – has enabled Luis Enrique to reintroduce a possession-based style of play Spain became renowned for under Vicente del Bosque.

With Spain set to begin their World Cup campaign against Costa Rica in just over two months' time, Pedri sees no reason why the class of 2022 cannot deliver a second World Cup win.

"Perhaps people don't expect so much from us, they don't see us as favourites, but inside we do see ourselves as favourites," he told Sport.

"We will not wear the medal without doing anything. If we work as we should, the opportunity will come.

"There is always pressure at Barca and the national team. You have to try to escape, be calm and enjoy. 

"Here and at Barca we have a team for everything. We work so that at the end of the season we can win everything we play."

Pedri, who does not turn 20 until November, has already won 12 senior international caps and established himself as a key player for Barcelona.

Now, he is setting his sights on competing for football's greatest individual honour.  

Asked whether he saw himself as a future Ballon d'Or winner, Pedri said: "I hope I have the opportunity to be, it is a very complicated prize. 

"You must be the best in the world, I have a lot to learn and improve so that this day can come.

"I worked a lot on the physical side, I still have to improve, but little by little I am adding small things. You can't put so much day by day because of the busy schedule, but you can always improve."

At club level, Pedri has struck up a fine understanding with Barcelona's new signing Robert Lewandowski, whose return of eight goals in six matches has helped Xavi's side to an unbeaten start in LaLiga. 

"It's crazy, he contributes a lot of goals, assists, he's a machine in the area," Pedri said of the Poland international.

"It is spectacular to work with him, he helps young players, those who enter now or have been there for more years. He suits us very well."

Spain face Switzerland and Portugal in their final two matches in Group A2 of the Nations League this month, having built a one-point lead over Fernando Santos' men ahead of those fixtures.

Poland captain Robert Lewandowski will wear the colours of Ukraine at the World Cup in Qatar, after receiving a special armband from Andriy Shevchenko.

The Barcelona forward met Shevchenko at Warsaw's national stadium to collect the yellow and blue armband, which he will wear at the World Cup to represent Ukraine, who did not qualify.

Ukraine has been ravaged by Russia following February's invasion, with millions of citizens forced to flee the country and many have travelled to Poland, which has also hosted the Champions League matches of Shakhtar Donetsk this season.

While Ukraine will not play in Qatar, Lewandowski has pledged to display their colours when he takes to the field in a show of solidarity with those who are suffering, having met Shevchenko with Laureus Sport For Good.

"I will carry the colours of Ukraine to the World Cup. As a player and a man, I support peace and I believe such symbolic gestures matter," he said.

"I believe that as athletes we should use the power of sport for good. I'm going to take Andriy’s armband with me to the World Cup in November as a reminder that Ukrainian people are not alone and are not forgotten.

"It means a lot to me to stand here with Andriy, a footballer and a man who has used his voice and platform to influence positive change."

Shevchenko thanked Lewandowski for his pledge, saying: "For me, the captain’s armband is a symbol of leadership, strength and passion for your country. I want to pass this armband to Robert to thank him for his support, voice and platform in supporting my country and calling for peace."

Poland begin their World Cup campaign on November 18 against Mexico, then tackling Argentina and Saudi Arabia in Group C.

Barcelona head coach Xavi believes "everyone is prepared" as he highlighted the importance of squad players after the 3-0 victory over 10-man Elche at Camp Nou.

Memphis Depay's strike and Robert Lewandowski's double saw Barca cruise to a fifth win in their opening six La Liga games, while adding a fourth consecutive league clean sheet.

The three points moved them top of the table ahead of Sunday's Madrid derby, and Xavi believes squad depth will be vital as Barcelona bid to land their first LaLiga title since the 2018-19 campaign.

"We are a broad squad, in which everyone trains well. Everyone is prepared and plugged in when the team needs it, and that's what's important," Xavi said.

"It's an atypical year with a tight schedule. We won't rest for a few weeks, and we need everyone. It's about making a group. Whoever plays, the team is up to the task.

"We have plenty to choose from, many options, and in the end the squads are the ones that win the titles, not the starting 11."

Two of Barcelona's best performers against LaLiga's bottom side were youngsters Alejandro Balde and Pedri, and Xavi was full of praise for the teenage pair.

"He [Pedri] is one of the best who's come through here. He understands the game, makes a difference with the pass, doesn't lose the ball. We have to take care of him," the 42-year-old Xavi said.

"They [Elche] did a lot of individual marking and Balde can generate superiority inside and out. It is surprising that an 18-year-old boy plays at that level.

"He's in great physical condition, and he's going to give us a lot."

Barcelona went top of LaLiga as a Memphis Depay strike and Robert Lewandowski's double saw them cruise to a 3-0 victory against 10-man Elche at Camp Nou.

Elche captain Gonzalo Verdu was sent off after just 14 minutes, before Lewandowski and Depay put Xavi’s side 2-0 up at the break.

Lewandowski grabbed his second of the game after the interval to make it 11 goals in all competitions since his arrival from Bayern Munich as Barca eased to victory.

Victory continued Barca's unbeaten start to the domestic season as they moved top ahead of Sunday's Madrid derby.

Verdu was dismissed for cynically dragging down Lewandowski after Frenkie de Jong put the striker through on goal.

Edgar Badia made numerous saves to keep the hosts out, but the Catalans eventually capitalised on their numerical advantage with 34 minutes gone when Lewandowski tapped in Alejandro Balde's cross.

Depay made it 2-0 soon after, lashing into the roof of the net after bamboozling John Donald with a brilliant turn.

Barca thought they were three up before the break when Pedri bundled in, but the midfielder was offside in the build-up.

Lewandowski scored his second just after half-time, rifling into the bottom-left corner after the ball fell to him in the box. 

The Poland international nearly had his hat-trick when seeing a drive saved by the legs of Badia, before skimming the crossbar with another attempt.

But those misses mattered little as Barca eased to another win.

Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer believes his side were "lucky" not to concede to Robert Lewandowski on his return to Bavaria.

The Poland international has been in sensational form since joining Barcelona, scoring a hat-trick on his Champions League debut for the Blaugrana against Viktoria Plzen last week, but he was unable to add to his tally at the Allianz Arena.

Lewandowski was thwarted by former team-mate Neuer from a close-range header after he had squandered an opportunity on the volley, blazing his attempt over the crossbar.

Both chances could have easily been taken by Lewandowski, and Neuer admitted that Bayern had benefitted from good fortune in their 2-0 victory.

"I think it was an emotional game for Lewy because he was very successful here in Munich. But we also know him as an opponent. Luck was not on his side in crucial moments," he told reporters.

"We're lucky that he sent that volley over the bar and I was there in the second chance. We showed a good defensive performance today."

Julian Nagelsmann also thought Lewandowski performed well despite failing to find the back of the net, acknowledging the majority of the pre-match talk centred on Bayern's reunion with the striker.

"I think he played a good game, I'm happy from our perspective that he didn't score. We saw that he was dangerous, we were able to defend him very well," he said.

"I saw him after the game and hugged him but he plays for a different club now, I have a lot of players I have to look out for.

"This week, I probably had 60 questions on Lewandowski, you can pose those questions to Xavi because he's not my player anymore."

Barcelona head coach Xavi, meanwhile, believes Lewandowski did not get overwhelmed by the occasion, stating: "I don't think he could have been pressured, with his maturity and experience. 

"It is a lack of effectiveness. It's football and this happens. And it happens in the stadium where it couldn't happen."

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

So that proved in Tuesday's Champions League clash at the Allianz Arena, a match billed as Robert Lewandowski's reunion with Bayern Munich, the club he left for Barcelona in a €50million deal just two months ago.

Yet in the end, the Poland international failed to make the impact many had predicted on his return to Bavaria, on a night of disappointment for Barca against opponents they must simply hate the sight of.

Two goals in the space of four minutes early in the second half from Lucas Hernandez and Leroy Sane proved the difference between the sides as Bayern made it five wins in a row against the Catalans by an aggregate 19-4 scoreline.

Going further back, this was Barca's ninth Champions League loss to Bayern, which is now more than twice as many as they have suffered against any other opponent in the competition (four v Milan, Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea).

Julian Nagelsmann had called on his Bayern side to "put on a show" amid growing doubts over his own future on the back of three successive league draws, Bayern's longest wait for victory in the Bundesliga in four years.

For 45 enthralling minutes, the hosts were second best and rather grateful that their former hero Lewandowski had stage fright on his first trip back to this ground.

The prolific striker had five shots alone in the first half, which was one more than the entire Bayern side, equating to an expected goals (xG) return of 0.5 compared to 0.3 for the hosts.

Lewandowski would have expected to capitalise during his time at Bayern – he scored 344 times in 375 appearances for the German giants – but this proved to be a rare off-day.

He also failed to get his head on Joshua Kimmich's delightful corner that was instead met by Hernandez for the opening goal of the contest. At that point, Barca had conceded 16 goals from the past 30 shots on target faced against Bayern in the Champions League.

That soon became 17 goals from 31 shots on target thanks to Sane's goal after the winger was played in by the ever-improving Jamal Musiala, who himself would not look out of place in the Barca side Xavi is desperately attempting to mould.

Going down 2-0 to Bayern is far from irreparably damaging from Xavi's perspective, even if it does end an unbeaten start to the season spanning six matches. If ever there was a game to truly gauge how far his side have come this season, this was very much it.

It was only a little over nine months ago that Xavi described a 3-0 loss in this fixture as "a harsh reality" for his side. Just weeks into the job, the club legend acknowledged Europa League-bound Barca could not consider themselves among Europe's elite clubs at that point.

The performance produced by Barcelona in the first half on Tuesday offered plenty of promise. They may not be back at their very best just yet, but the signs of improvement on the back of a busy transfer window are clear to see.

And while this game did not quite follow the script from Lewandowski's perspective, the former fan favourite – who finished the match with seven attempts and an xG of 0.8 – will have a second chance to inflict some pain on his old side when they face off again at Camp Nou next month.

Yet on the basis of this latest tussle between the heavyweight clubs, it seems no matter what ploy Barca take – even if that means nabbing their opponents' best player – the outcome will remain the same. Now that is a harsh lesson.

Robert Lewandowski's return to Bayern Munich was not a fruitful endeavour as a wasteful Barcelona were swept aside in a 2-0 Champions League defeat.

Second-half goals from Lucas Hernandez and Leroy Sane condemned Xavi's side to yet another loss in Bavaria, a historically poor hunting ground for the Catalan giants.

Barcelona were unable to capitalise on a dominant first half, with Lewandowski spurning some fine opportunities, while Pedri struck the post after the visitors had fallen two behind.

A fightback never appeared likely, with Bayern producing a stellar display in the second period after a frustrating first 45 minutes.

After an end-to-end start, Barcelona looked the more threatening, with Pedri forcing Manuel Neuer to make a smart save and Lewandowski passing up a chance on the volley.

Lewandowski, ever the threat, then saw a header from close range saved well, while Raphinha dragged a low shot wide from outside the box.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen was belatedly called into action early in the second half as Leon Goretzka tested his compatriot from distance, and the resulting corner provided the breakthrough.

Joshua Kimmich's delivery to the near post was met by the head of Hernandez, escaping Marcos Alonso's attention and applying contact ahead of Ter Stegen.

And the lead was doubled four minutes later when Jamal Musiala fed Sane, who raced away and poked a deft finish into the net.

Pedri clipped the upright after a one-two with Lewandowski created space in the area, yet that was as close as Barca would come on another difficult night.

Barcelona sporting director Jordi Cruyff insisted the side's host of new additions joined in order to "follow their dream" as he hit out at criticism of the Blaugrana's transfer policy.

Despite concerns regarding the club's finances, Barcelona acquired Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha, Jules Kounde, Franck Kessie, Andreas Christensen, Hector Bellerin and Marcos Alonso during a busy transfer window.

Xavi's new-look team have impressed this season, taking 13 points from their first five matches in LaLiga, but many onlookers were surprised by their ability to outmanoeuvre their rivals in the market.

Raphinha and Kounde, for instance, were both strongly linked with Chelsea before arriving at Camp Nou. Cruyff, however, insists Barca retain a unique draw.

"Barcelona has a magnet, it is beautiful," Cruyff told Guillem Balague ahead of the Cruyff Legacy Summit.

"You can see the pride in the eyes of the players when they get a chance to sign for Barcelona and that has helped a lot, being able to compete with clubs with bigger budgets and better salaries.

"They wanted to sign for Barcelona, and we are very grateful for these players because, believe me, they had better offers than us.

"And still they chose to follow their dream to be part of history. When you see the eyes shining in these players you know you are in a special place."

LaLiga's strict salary controls meant Barca were forced to wait to register some of their new signings, with Kounde sitting out the club's opening league game as they attempted to streamline their squad.

However, Cruyff believes those who criticised the club's transfer policy lack understanding, adding: "I have noticed 99 per cent of the people don't understand Spanish financial fair play, how to fit that puzzle.

"It is something you won't understand in one hour, it is more complex and complicated. Even when you have money, you can't spend it.

"The news that has come out about us is not always accurate, and I understand people listen to that and think what Barcelona has done is maybe not elegant.

"That is a question of understanding fair play. Our job was to, inside the strict rules of Spanish football, improve the team. Now we have a squad that can compete with everything."

Cruyff also believes Barcelona's purchases were made with the future in mind, adding: "Most of the players we have brought in have a lot of years in front [of them], have a transfer value.

"We have made financially good decisions because you can see in the last week of the window how values have gone up.

"We have a squad for the future. The future is here and the present is here. We have things we need to improve, but the club had to make that decision in the summer.

"January 2022 was not a moment to buy four or five players and repair what we needed to repair. In January we looked at the short term, now we looked at short, middle and long term.

"The team has started really well, with the manager doing a really good job. He has a positive headache... he has a good squad to choose from.

"If that continues the right way, the city is alive again. Even for the smaller games, it's a sell-out and that shows the mood. You see how the people are so happy with the players that have joined. You feel it is alive again, and this club needed that."

It is not a reunion that any Bayern Munich fan will be relishing when Robert Lewandowski returns to the Allianz Arena on Tuesday.

Just a few months ago they were cheering goal after goal the Poland striker was scoring for their team, something he had done with tremendous consistency ever since arriving from Borussia Dortmund.

Then came the news none of them will have wanted to hear, that Lewandowski wanted a new challenge.

After a surprising amount of unpleasantness between player and club during the transfer window, the 34-year-old got his wish and made the move to Barcelona for a reported fee of €50million.

With a sense of inevitability as the balls were opened by former Barca midfielder Yaya Toure during the draw for the group stage of the Champions League, who should Bayern be joined by in Group C along with Inter and Viktoria Plzen? Of course, Barcelona.

Ahead of Lewandowski lining up on the opposing side in Munich, Stats Perform has taken a look at what he achieved at Bayern, and how both parties have adapted in the early stages of the new campaign.

The man they called "Lewan-goal-ski" (well, Thomas Muller did)

Of course, Bayern could not feel too bad about having their main goalscorer taken from them, considering that is exactly what they did to chief Bundesliga rivals Dortmund when they signed Lewandowski on a free transfer in 2014.

Inevitably, it turned out to be a key move as BVB fell away after struggling to replace him, while Lewandowski went on to score an exceptional number of goals at his new home.

Overall, he scored 344 goals and recorded 57 assists in 375 appearances for Bayern, and in the 2020-21 campaign, he broke Gerd Muller's long-standing Bundesliga record by scoring 41 times in a single season, while his 43 league goals in 2021 serve as the record for a calendar year in Germany's top tier.

Last season, Lewandowski scored 50 goals across all competitions, the most across Europe's top five leagues, as Bayern lifted their 10th Bundesliga title in a row.

In all, he won eight league titles, three DFB-Pokal's, as well as a Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup.

After that, it was 'Lewan-gone-ski', as team-mate Thomas Muller may well have called him after his departure, before holding far too long for applause.

What is 11 minus a nine?

With arguably the best number nine in the game gone, Bayern head coach Julian Nagelsmann wanted to evolve his team, making them less reliant on one figure for so many goals and spreading the responsibility.

Sadio Mane joined from Liverpool as the de facto replacement, and before the DFL-Super Cup win against RB Leipzig, Nagelsmann admitted: "When we agreed to Barcelona's offer [for Lewandowski], it was planned that we might not sign anyone else for this position."

The theory was that the likes of Mane, Leroy Sane, Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry, fresh from signing a new contract, could increase their output in front of goal, while the ever reliable Muller and the increasingly promising Jamal Musiala would also be potent sources.

Things certainly started well enough with a 5-3 win against Leipzig, followed by a 6-1 thrashing of Eintracht Frankfurt in their opening Bundesliga game.

After a 2-0 victory at home to Wolfsburg, Bayern put seven past Bochum and talk of a lack of goals could not have been further from anyone's lips.

However, three draws in a row in the league against Borussia Monchengladbach, Union Berlin and Stuttgart have followed, which has seen Union emerge as the surprise Bundesliga leaders after six games.

In those games, Bayern have scored a total of 19 goals, with 10 different scorers, registering 12 points in the Bundesliga.

By comparison, in their first six league games last season when Lewandowski was still front and centre for them, they scored 23 goals, though with only seven different scorers, and the Pole providing seven goals of his own, and had 16 points after five wins and just one draw.

In their opening Champions League game, though, Nagelsmann's men put in a terrific performance as they beat Inter 2-0 at San Siro, with their second goal in particular showcasing the sort of passing and moving around the box that feels more possible when you don't have an orthodox number nine as the obvious target.

Lewandowski picks up in Spain where he left off in Germany

Though it took a bit of, shall we say, moving things around so Barcelona could register their new star striker, along with a number of other signings in the transfer window, there has been very little adaptation needed for Lewandowski in LaLiga.

He has already scored six goals in his first five league games, making him the fastest player to reach that figure in the competition in the 21st century.

The forward also has two assists, which makes him the joint-fastest to have been involved in eight goals in the 21st century, alongside former Barca players Rafael van der Vaart in 2008 and Cesc Fabregas in 2011.

Lewandowski also added three more goals to his impressive total in the Champions League with a hat-trick in Barca's 5-1 win against Viktoria Plzen at Camp Nou last week.

That made him outright third in the competition's all-time leading scorers with 89 goals in 107 appearances, behind only Lionel Messi (125 goals in 157 games) and Cristiano Ronaldo (140 goals in 183 games).

Of course, Lewandowski has recent history of this fixture, playing for Bayern as they beat Barca 3-0 home and away in last season's Champions League group stage, scoring twice in the first game in Spain.

It played a big part in the Catalan giants being dumped out of the competition at that stage for the first time in over 20 years, but with Lewandowski on board, Xavi's side will be hoping he can fire them to the round of 16 and beyond, just as he did so regularly for Bayern.

Lewandowski has already started to do so with his treble against Plzen, but will he be able to make an impact again when he faces his former club, or will Bayern be able to prove they have started to move on without him?

Xavi has challenged Barcelona to demonstrate their growth under his leadership when they face a huge Champions League test at Bayern Munich on Tuesday.

Barca have only twice beaten Bayern in 13 attempts and have never won this fixture away from home.

In the Champions League, the Blaugrana have lost eight of their 11 meetings with the Bundesliga giants – twice their number of defeats inflicted by any other opponent (four v Milan, Chelsea and Paris Saint Germain).

Barcelona fell to one of the most embarrassing defeats in their history against Bayern in August 2020, being hammered 8-2 in the quarter-finals in Lisbon, and they were beaten twice by Julian Nagelsmann's men last season. 

But the Catalan giants have steadily improved since November 2021, when legendary midfielder Xavi was appointed as head coach.

Now, it is up to his side to prove it, as Xavi told reporters on Monday: "I think there are a lot of expectations placed on us this season.

"Tomorrow's result won't change anything, but it is true that it is a challenge to win here, a stadium where we have never won.

"We have been working together for 10 months, and we have grown. We have the feeling and the challenge that we can win this game and that we can finally change the dynamic.

"We play against one of the best teams in the world, and tomorrow we want to show that this dynamic has changed.

"However, let's remember that tomorrow there are only three points at stake."

Tuesday's clash is set to be a particularly special occasion for Robert Lewandowski, the former Bayern forward who joined Barca ahead of the new season.

Lewandowski netted a club-record 69 Champions League goals for Bayern, including 38 in 37 games at the Allianz Arena.

"I see Robert very well," Xavi added. "He is very motivated, he rested the other day and he will be fresh. I imagine it will be very special for him.

"Tomorrow we will try to show our personality and beat one of the best teams in the world."

Julian Nagelsmann expressed his desire to see Robert Lewandowski receive a warm welcome on his Bayern Munich return, as he backed the striker to continue his fine start to life at Barcelona.

Lewandowski, who scored 238 Bundesliga goals during an eight-year spell with the Bavarian giants before heading to Camp Nou in July, has made a scintillating start to his Barcelona career. 

The Poland international has scored six goals in his first five outings in LaLiga, and turned on the style with a hat-trick in Barca's 5-1 Champions League thrashing of Viktoria Plzen last week.

Lewandowski will make a swift return to Munich with his new club for Tuesday's huge Champions League fixture, and despite the less-than-amicable nature of his departure, Nagelsmann believes he should be received warmly.

"If I see him before [the game] then I'm certainly going to give him my hand. I'm not sure if I'll see him beforehand, usually I don't," Nagelsmann said.

"I'm looking forward to our fans welcoming him back. When a player has been so strong for the team over the years, I think it's important. 

"He was an important part of the Bayern family. We had a personal exchange a couple of weeks back, not regarding football. I am looking forward to seeing him again."

Asked about Lewandowski's start to life in Spain, Nagelsmann added: "I think he can still continue to play at that level for a couple of years, I'm not sure how many goals he can score this season, I'm no genie. 

"I think it will be plenty. He has scored 40 plus usually, so I think he can do that in the Spanish league as well.

"I'm not sure if he's the most dangerous, but he's certainly one of their most dangerous players, the one that can score the most goals. They have great solutions there.

"Lewandowski always has great runs and positions inside the box. He's the most dangerous in front of goal, but if he doesn't get a lot of balls, it's difficult [for him]."

Having coached Lewandowski when he brought up a half-century of goals in all competitions last term, Nagelsmann is acutely aware of his talents, and believes Dayot Upamecano's past experiences of facing him could aid Bayern. 

"I have plenty of positions that I'm already pretty clear on," Nagelsmann added. "Upamecano has memories of playing against Lewandowski, back when he was at RB Leipzig. He knows him from our practice as well."

While Upamecano is set to start at the Allianz Arena, Leon Goretzka will not, as Nagelsmann looks to ease the midfielder in following his injury lay-off.

"The position next to Joshua [Kimmich] is going to be [Marcel] Sabitzer," Nagelsmann said. 

"I've had a chat with Leon, it was my decision to keep him on [against Stuttgart on Saturday]. We decided to keep him on for 94 minutes, that was a long time for him after the injury. He reacted well to it and is feeling good. 

"Him having to play from the start is not going to happen, we need him for the whole season and don't want to give him too many minutes at the start."

Meanwhile, Barcelona have suffered eight Champions League defeats to Bayern – twice as many as they have lost against any other opponent (4 vs Milan, Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain).

Bayern also boast a 100 per cent record against the Blaugrana in the group stages and beat them twice in the competition last term, but Nagelsmann is keen to draw a line under those past meetings.

"We know Barcelona. They have a completely new mindset. You can delete the last few games against Barca from your memory, it's a whole different team, very aggressive," he said. "It reminds us of when Xavi still used to play himself. 

"In Gavi and Pedri they have great number eights that have great pressing actions as well. There's a great development there for the team, Xavi did a few things really well in the last weeks and months.

"They want to attack in a new way, and they're going to be very difficult opponents tomorrow."

Bayern Munich's sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic believes Robert Lewandowski's return to the club in the Champions League with Barcelona will not be a "distraction".

The Poland international departed the Bundesliga champions during the transfer window, bringing an end to a trophy laden eight-year spell in Bavaria.

Lewandowski has quickly settled into life in his new surroundings, scoring nine goals in six games for Barca in all competitions – including a hat-trick in the Champions League victory against Viktoria Plzen last week.

All eyes are now firmly focused on the midweek clash between Bayern and Barca in Munich, but Salihamidzic is not worried about the prospect of Lewandowski affecting the preparation of Julian Nagelsmann's team, though he admitted better performances are required after a run of three straight Bundesliga draws.

"We have to go up one or two more gears. Even three. We need to play much better against Barca than we are currently doing," he told Sport.

"Barca have top-level players with Lewandowski at the helm and they will take advantage of every opportunity.

"We don't think Robert's return can be a distraction, we don't think so."

Bayern conceded a last-gap equaliser on Saturday against Stuttgart, Matthijs de Ligt giving away a penalty, while Barca swept aside Cadiz in a 4-0 win.

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