Jordi Cruyff officially became Barcelona's sporting director of football on Friday in a move described by coach Xavi as "a great decision from the club".

The Dutchman, son of Barcelona great Johan Cruyff and a former player himself for the Blaugrana, was brought back to Camp Nou by president Joan Laporta last year to take up a strategic role in the football operation.

Now, Cruyff has signed a deal to be the club's sporting director of football, working in tandem with Mateu Alemany, who already holds down a similar role.

Cruyff had been operating in his new role for several weeks, prior to putting pen to paper.

Barcelona announced in a statement: "Jordi Cruyff has signed his contract as FC Barcelona's new sporting director of football. He has already been serving in the role since July 1.

"An FC Barcelona player from 1993 to 1996, he returned to the club last season as director of the international area of the football section and played a key role in the two most recent transfer windows as a member of the sporting commission."

Xavi believes 48-year-old Cruyff can bring a positive influence to bear after being handed increased responsibility.

A former coach of Chinese Super League side Shenzhen, Cruyff will be taking decisions that directly affect Xavi and the first team.

Xavi said: "First of all, I'm going to ask if he can invite me for dinner to celebrate this. I've very happy for him but also for us.

"He is a very capable person, very intelligent, he knows a lot about football; he is very loyal to me personally but also to the entire staff.

"It is a great decision from the club, I back it 100 per cent. I've always said many times, whether it's me here as a coach or not, both Mateu and Jordi are fantastic in the role and for the club."

Barcelona head coach Xavi will continue to exercise "great caution" with Ansu Fati despite his encouraging form from the bench.

The Spain international sustained a serious knee injury in November 2020 that required operations, and then he had recurring hamstring issues.

As a result, Fati has made just nine league starts since his breakthrough in the 2019-20 season and been limited to substitute appearances in his five outings this term.

Despite those limited opportunities, Fati has caught the eye with two goals and two assists in 120 minutes of LaLiga football, but Xavi made it clear he will not rush the 19-year-old back into the starting line-up.

"We are making a plan with great caution. These sensations I had are costing a little, but we are doing well," he said in Friday's press conference.

"He has to be an important footballer for us. You have to raise the pace, but little by little. It's a difficult situation to manage because he hasn't been playing for a long time and the pace and intensity requires time but also prudence and caution.

"At Barcelona I have decided that it is a matter of caution and prudence. I like him and it motivates me [to get him] in the starting eleven. It's not a mental issue.

"He takes it well. I spoke to him seven or eight days ago. I told him where we were and made him speak. I have regular meetings with the players.

"We are very close to everyone, but especially to Ansu because he is a special case."

Another important cog in Barcelona machine, Gavi, penned a new contract this week and Xavi was delighted to have the midfielder secured for the long-term.

"It's great news, the most important of the whole week. Player of the present and future. He is a leader, despite his age," he added.

"He has character, passion. He's a heart with legs. He has intensity, he is able to play as you want, in different positions. He has matured, he understands time very well, he plays more fluidly."

It is fair to say La Masia is one of the more famous football production lines.

Barcelona have built legendary teams using many of the graduates to have come through their academy.

While the club may have gone for more of a transfer-based approach in recent years, there remains a romance about the idea of La Masia churning out more stars of the future.

With the announcement on Wednesday that the latest product, Gavi, has signed a new deal until 2026 after becoming a vital cog in Xavi's first team despite only turning 18 in August, Stats Perform has taken a look at other teen sensations who broke through over the years; those who flourished, and those who did not.

From promise to stardom

Lionel Messi

Let's start with the most obvious one. Great things were always expected of Messi, but surely no-one could have predicted quite the impact the little guy with the long hair would have when he made his Barca debut.

On October 16, 2004, Messi came off the bench against Espanyol as an 82nd-minute sub for Deco. After that, he took over the world.

The Argentina international went on to make 778 appearances for Barca, scoring 672 goals, and winning seven Ballon d'Or awards.

Messi and Barca fans were in tears when he left for Paris Saint-Germain in 2021, showing exactly how much his impact had meant to the club.


The Barca head coach has made a promising start in the dugout since arriving last season, but he had already more than established his place as a legend in the club's history as a player.

He made his LaLiga debut in 1998 under Louis van Gaal, before becoming an integral part of several Barca sides over the next 17 years.

Xavi was a midfield maestro, and in his 779 matches, he scored 87 goals and lifted eight LaLiga titles, three Copa del Rey trophies and four Champions League titles.

It feels appropriate that in the same way he dictated play on the pitch, he is now engineering a new Barca side to play his way and making the fans believe in the team's identity and direction once more.

Andres Iniesta

You cannot mention Xavi without also mentioning his partner in crime.

Iniesta was the yin to Xavi's yang during the club's most prosperous era, also playing a significant part in winning a copious amount of trophies under the likes of Frank Rijkaard, Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique.

While Iniesta's most famous contribution to football will always be his winning goal for Spain in the 2010 World Cup final, the fact that the club is still truly looking to find an adequate replacement for his role four years after he left says it all.

Overall, he made 679 appearances, scoring 57 goals, before moving to Vissel Kobe in Japan in 2018.

From promise to... Stoke, Ipswich and Brighton

Bojan Krkic

It is difficult to follow in any successful footsteps, but imagine being the next big thing after Messi.

The hype felt justified for Bojan though, after the diminutive striker broke all kinds of records at youth level, scoring 423 goals overall before he even reached the first team.

Being a central striker and goal poacher did not really tally with the Barca way at the time, though, and even though he did manage 41 goals in 164 games for the first team, he was ultimately sold to Roma in 2011.

Bojan struggled to establish himself anywhere, even at Stoke City in the Premier League after arriving in 2014, while at Montreal Impact, he made none, and he currently finds himself playing alongside Iniesta at Vissel Kobe at the age of 32.

Giovani dos Santos

Speaking of the next big thing, when Giovani came through, his comparison was to the great Ronaldinho. Again, no pressure.

Similarly to Bojan, it never really felt like the Mexico international suited Barca, a wrong place wrong time situation, but he still made 41 appearances, scoring eight goals.

He joined Tottenham in 2008, but despite some brief flourishes at White Hart Lane, also struggled to establish himself, even moving on loan to Ipswich Town in 2009.

After some time back in LaLiga with Mallorca and Villarreal, Giovani moved to MLS with Los Angeles Galaxy, then after two years at Club America in his native country, has been without a club since 2021.

Gai Assulin

One of the original 'the [insert nationality here] Messi' prospects, Israeli youngster Assulin looked every bit a Barca player in the making.

As with the duo above, it most certainly did not work out that way. Across three seasons, Assulin played just twice for the first team, without scoring, before being moved on to Manchester City, where he also struggled for game time.

A loan move to Brighton and Hove Albion did not convince City to give him a chance, and since then he has hopped to a number of clubs, including Racing Santander, Hapoel Tel Aviv, and even Italian fourth division side Crema, whom he left in 2021.

The player who Thiago Alcantara apparently once described as "the most talented player I've ever seen in La Masia" was last seen playing five-a-side in Stockport as he prepared to find his next club.

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."

Xavi felt Barcelona's progress took "a step backwards" with their 2-0 defeat to Bayern Munich, even if he felt his side deserved to win the match.

Barca enjoyed the better of the first half in Tuesday's Champions League group game at the Allianz Arena without managing to put away any of their chances.

Former Bayern striker Robert Lewandowski had five shots alone in the first half, equating to an expected goals return of 0.54, compared to 0.3 for the home side combined.

But two goals in the space of four minutes early in the second half from Lucas Hernandez and Leroy Sane proved the difference as Bayern beat Barca for a fifth game running.

Barca's nine Champions League losses against Bayern are more than double the number they have suffered against any other side (four versus Milan, Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea).
The defeat in Bavaria was Barca's first of the season in what was their seventh game in all competitions, but Xavi did not believe the scoreline told the full story.

"We were better than Bayern today," he told Movistar+. "We forgave them too much, whereas they do not forgive – that is the difference.

"We had six or seven very clear chances. Their first goal came from an error in marking a corner; the second is also an error on our behalf.

"The first half today was totally ours and the result does not reflect what happened, but the Champions League is like that. If you forgive then you end up paying for it."

Bayern attempted just four shots in the first half, compared to nine in the second, with only 231 seconds separating Hernandez and Sane's goals.

Barca have dropped to second in Group C after two rounds of matches, three points behind Bayern and level with Inter, whom they now face home and away.

"We have to focus on the positives from this game and keep working as we look forward," Xavi added. "This is a step backwards, but we leave here with an undeserved defeat."

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."

Barcelona head coach Xavi says "life is above football" after his side's LaLiga clash with Cadiz was temporarily suspended due to a supporter suffering a cardiac arrest.

The visitors were two goals up with nine minutes to go at Estadio Nuevo Mirandilla when play was halted and the players were taken off the field due to the medical emergency.

Goalkeeper Jeremias Ledesma was seen passing a defibrillator into the stands prior to the concerned players making their way down the tunnel.

Cadiz released a statement later on Saturday confirming the fan in question had been stabilised and taken to the nearby Puerta del Mar Hospital.

A camera operator also fainted in a separate incident and was quickly treated by the stadium's medical staff.

Once play resumed after a 40-minute delay, Barca added to goals from Frenkie de Jong and Robert Lewandowski through Ansu Fati and Ousmane Dembele.

While ultimately pleased to see his side maintain their positive start to the campaign, Xavi was quick to put the result into some perspective.

"It was an eventful situation," he told Movistar. "Some said a supporter had fallen from the stands, others that it was a heart attack. 

"If there had been a misfortune of any sort, we would have stopped the game. We are talking about a human life and that is above football.

"Luckily no misfortune has happened and we have been able to play football.

"In the end it was a matter of humanity, with human qualities coming out. Between all of us, we have tried to add and we hope it will turn out well for the person involved."

Barca's victory was their first against Cadiz in five attempts, having drawn two and lost two of their past four encounters in a run stretching back to April 2006.

The Catalans have now won four and drawn one of their first five LaLiga matches in what is Xavi's first full campaign in charge, conceding just once in the process.

Across the past 36 years, only in the 2014-15 season have Barca conceded fewer goals at this stage of a league season.

Reflecting on a fifth win in a row in all competitions for his side, Xavi said: "It's an important win at a difficult ground. We hadn't won here for two seasons. 

"We created chances and we dominated. The three points were very important to stay at the top of the table.

"Sometimes we need to understand the last pass better, but I'm happy despite having not played an excellent game."

With a Champions League showdown against Bayern Munich to come on Tuesday, Fati, Lewandowski and Dembele were named among the substitutes versus Cadiz. 

Asked if that upcoming match impacted his selection decision, Xavi said: "Even if we didn't have Bayern next week, we'd have played with the same eleven.

"We have a very large squad and those who participated today played very well. This will be a regular dynamic this season when we play every three days."

Xavi said Barcelona expect Antoine Griezmann to make his Atletico Madrid stay permanent amid reports the Catalan giants could take legal action if los Colchoneros fail to purchase the forward.

Griezmann is midway through a two-year loan spell at Atleti, but Diego Simeone recently suggested his minutes were being managed in order to avoid activating a purchase clause in their deal with Barcelona.

The France international – who scored a 101st-minute winner in Atleti's Champions League opener against Porto on Wednesday – has made four substitute appearances in LaLiga this season, totalling just 109 minutes on the pitch.

On Friday, reports suggested Barcelona could take legal action over Atleti's reluctance to purchase Griezmann, after he featured more regularly in his first season on loan in the Spanish capital.

Asked about Griezmann's situation ahead of Barcelona's trip to Cadiz, Xavi said: "This is a question for Cholo [Simeone], who has already made it clear that he is a club man.

"It is not an issue for me. Look, we have held meetings with the club, talking about players, but I have not spoken with Antoine's club. I can't do anything else."

Pressed on whether he would welcome Griezmann back to Camp Nou, the Blaugrana boss said: "It's a club issue, it's not up to me, the clubs must talk. 

"In fact, we think that he is already an Atletico Madrid player."

But Simeone was reluctant to comment on the forward's future ahead of Atleti's meeting with Celta Vigo, declaring: "I have been very clear on a day-to-day basis on this matter. 

"It's been four dates and I've always said the same. I have nothing more to add."

Referencing the club hierarchy's apparent desire to hold Griezmann back, he then added: "Where the captain commands, the sailor does not command."

Barcelona head coach Xavi warned his side will face a "dangerous" opponent in Cadiz on Saturday, making it clear he is not yet considering the upcoming test against Bayern Munich.

The Catalan giants will travel to Bavaria for a huge Champions League clash in Group C, with both sides having won their respective opening fixtures against Viktoria Plzen and Inter.

Tuesday's fixture will also see Robert Lewandowski, who scored a hat-trick on his European debut for Barcelona, return to face the side he recently departed and that adds further intrigue to the game.

Xavi, however, is focusing on Saturday's LaLiga away clash against Cadiz and is expecting a difficult encounter, with Barcelona's opponents desperate to secure a first win of the season.

"It's a difficult, rocky, very defensive opponent. It's been tough for us the last four games, we haven't beaten them. Good day for football revenge," Xavi said in Friday's press conference.

Indeed, Cadiz have won two and drawn two of their last four against Barcelona in LaLiga, but this season they have been slow starters, losing four in a row to sit bottom of the Spanish top flight, in which Barcelona hold down second spot.

"They haven't won, but that makes them more dangerous, they will come out more aggressive," Xavi said. "It's a difficult place to go, one of those which [can decide who] wins the league. Here they secured their safety [from relegation] last year, they work very well even if they have not started very well.

"We are focused on the Cadiz alone. I understand the euphoria, but this has just begun. We have to be humble, we play for three very important points, and we are waiting to win against Cadiz, not thinking about Bayern.

"It's not difficult to manage, there are experienced players as well as young players, and they're all motivated and plugged in, I need them all."

Xavi echoed that sentiment when asked about Real Madrid losing Karim Benzema due to injury, with the first Clasico of the season coming up next month.

"We are waiting for the Cadiz game. Neither of Benzema, nor of [Antoine] Griezmann, nor of debates, I think of Cadiz, of how to play them, surprise them," Xavi said.

"We are looking out for ourselves, not the rest. If I'm looking out for others, we're going [to do] badly."

Ousmane Dembele has shown the same ability to beat defenders as Neymar did in his Barcelona prime, according to head coach Xavi.

The French winger delivered three assists on Wednesday as Barcelona hammered Viktoria Plzen 5-1 in their Champions League group opener, an ideal result ahead of tougher tests against Bayern Munich and Inter.

Robert Lewandowski grabbed a hat-trick, with Dembele setting up the striker's second as well as goals for Franck Kessie and Ferran Torres.

It is remarkable to think that Barcelona and Dembele were in a fractious stand-off barely eight months ago, which at one point saw the club tell the winger to leave amid a contract row.

He has since signed a new deal at Camp Nou, giving club and player security through to 2024, and his form on the wing has been largely outstanding.

"I don't want to throw flowers, but the ability he has in one-on-one situations is at the level of the best Neymar," said Xavi, who played alongside Neymar for Barcelona.

The only aspect where Xavi would ask more of Dembele is in pushing to add to his goals tally.

"He has to dare more to shoot at goal and score," said Xavi. "He's a good boy and he has to take advantage of these characteristics. He's here to make a difference and he's doing it."

Neymar left Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain in 2017 and remains with the French giants.

His prowess in front of goal is something Dembele can only aspire to, as despite Xavi's assertions there is a huge gulf between Neymar's output and Dembele's own.

Since the start of 2022, Dembele and Neymar have played a similar number of minutes across all competitions (Dembele – 1,814; Neymar – 1,681) and Dembele edges the assists comparison 13-11 but is 66-62 behind on chances created.

However, their form in terms of finishing has been strikingly different, with Neymar scoring 19 goals and Dembele managing just three. That is despite Dembele attempting 68 shots to Neymar's 54.

Of that high shot tally, Dembele only hit the target 15 times, while Neymar has done so on 31 occasions.

Neymar is exceeding his expected goals (xG) tally of 12.44, while Dembele's xG of 4.99 suggests his shots are often coming from areas where it is highly unlikely he would score. The xG metric looks at the quality of a chance and the likelihood of it resulting in a goal.

Neymar's shots-to-goals conversion rate is an excellent 35.19 per cent, while Dembele is found lagging on 4.41 per cent.

Barcelona coach Xavi is overjoyed by Robert Lewandowski's start at the club, referring to him as "insatiable" after terrorising Viktoria Plzen.

The 34-year-old was in ruthless form on Wednesday, scoring a hat-trick as Barca thrashed their visitors 5-1 at Camp Nou.

Playing his first Champions League game for Barca, Lewandowski netted two sumptuous 20-yard strikes either side of a stooping header, with the hosts comfortable throughout.

Wednesday's treble ensured Lewandowski became the first player to net a Champions League hat-trick for three clubs, having scored four for Bayern Munich and one with Borussia Dortmund.

But Lewandowski's display was not a real shock given his strong start to life in LaLiga, and everything about his first few weeks at Barca has left Xavi amazed.

"Robert is like that, he's insatiable. I'm delighted with how he trains, how he improves the team," Xavi told Movistar.

"He's humble, he expects [of his team-mates] and he does a great job of pressing.

"It's not just the hat-trick anymore, it's his work and how he dominates."

Lewandowski was not the only Barca player to impress, however – had the Pole not scored a hat-trick, most would have seen Ousmane Dembele as the standout performer.

The France international was dazzling at times on the right flank.

It was only the second time in a Barcelona shirt that Dembele has laid on five key passes in a single game, and two of those resulted in assists.

Dembele was in devastating form in the second half of last season, and Xavi feels the winger is having fun at Camp Nou.

"He is happy, enjoying himself," the coach added. "He is a player who makes a difference – he assists and scores goals. He is a dagger down the wing."

Barcelona's three first-half goals on Wednesday ensured they have already scored more than the two they managed in the whole group stage last term.

But a tricky trip to face Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena awaits next week.

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."

Xavi says the manner in which Barcelona cruised to a 3-0 victory over fragile Sevilla is a "good sign."

Raphinha opened the scoring with his first Barca goal and Robert Lewandowski's fifth in three LaLiga games doubled their lead in the first half.

Eric Garcia increased their advantage with his first senior goal at the Ramen Sanchez-Pizjuan, where Jules Kounde provided two assists against his former club, and the Blaugrana really ought to have won by a more emphatic margin.

There were whistles from furious Sevilla fans following a defeat that left them with only one point from four matches, while Barca are second behind Real Madrid following a third win in a row.

The Catalan giants have scored 11 goals in three matches and a new-look side look like they can be the great entertainers this season, with such much quality going forward.

Barca head coach Xavi said: "We have had chances to score more goals. It's a good sign to come to Sevilla and impose ourselves, the team is in a very good moment."

Ousmane Dembele caused a fragile Sevilla side all sorts of problems before he was withdrawn in the second half and Xavi was delighted with the impact the winger made.

"I know what Ousmane is capable of, he is a player whose attitude I really like, not only in attack but also in defence." he said.

Xavi also picked out Gavi for praise following an influential display from the teenage midfielder.

He said: "I'm not surprised, I see him training every day and I see what he's capable of. It'' wonderful, maybe he was the best player in the game."


Barcelona have landed defender Marcos Alonso from Chelsea as part of the latter's deal for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, with the left-back joining on a one-year deal and a release clause set at €30million.

The 31-year-old, who arrived at Stamford Bridge in 2016, was a Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League winner with the Blues during his six-year tenure in London.

Having previously played in the English top-flight for Bolton Wanderers, and then Sunderland during a loan spell from Fiorentina, the 31-year-old returns to LaLiga for the first time in over a decade.

A product of the Castilla academy system at Real Madrid, Alonso only played one competitive game for the club before he left for England in 2010.

His arrival comes following the termination of his contract with Chelsea, which came following the Blues' capture of Aubameyang - bringing an end to his short spell in Catalonia.

He is the second defensive arrival at the end of the transfer window, with Hector Bellerin having arrived from Arsenal on Thursday after similarly seeing his contract cut-short.

Alonso has been handed the number 17 shirt at the club, with Bellerin given number two, and neither player was signed in time to feature in this weekend's LaLiga clash with Sevilla.

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