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."

Barcelona boss Xavi has played down concerns over the future of captain Sergio Busquets, insisting the Spain international remains "key" to his plans at the club.

A difficult start to the season for the 34-year-old, including a red card against Rayo Vallecano, seems to have stoked further suggestions this campaign could be his last at Camp Nou.

With Barca still likely to need to cut their cloth accordingly amid their financial struggles, the Spain skipper could well be one key man to depart next year.

But the defensive midfielder has publicly downplayed a definitive answer on his future, and speaking ahead of his side's clash with Mallorca, Xavi reiterated that no decisions have yet been made.

"Busquets has said publicly that he hasn't decided anything," he stated. "He will make a decision at the end of the season and for me, he continues to be key."

With domestic and European concerns to field, Barca are set to enter a major period of fixture congestion, with a dozen games crunched into the month-and-a-half stretch ahead of the Qatar 2022 World Cup.

Several of Xavi's fellow coaches across the continent have voiced their displeasure at the intense calendar, but he is instead focusing on the need to take as many points as they can at home and abroad.

"We have 12 games until the break for the World Cup," he added. "It's a momentous stretch of the season. All games are going to be very important.

"Tomorrow we have to win and show our character. We have to show our strengths."

Barca will move into an enforced break this term thanks to the mid-season winter staging of the World Cup in Qatar, adding another tough dimension to an already gruelling campaign.

With FIFA having mooted plans in recent times to potentially expand the tournament to a biennial staging, Xavi feels there should be no further restructures or moves from its traditional off-season berth.

"FIFA plans to organise the World Cup every two years," he added. "Now we have the World Cup in Qatar during the winter period.

"I think it would be better if the tournament is compiled at a separate time. Then the other time is allocated to the clubs."

Ousmane Dembele has revealed he told Barcelona coach Xavi he would sign a new contract with the club as far back as December.

France international Dembele looked to be heading out of Barcelona in January when acrimonious wrangling over his future led to him being ordered to find a new club.

At the time, Dembele had refused an extension to his deal, which ran through to the end of June, and Barcelona wanted to recoup some of his value rather than see him leave on a free transfer.

Despite reported interest from Paris Saint-Germain and a number of Premier League clubs, the 25-year-old signed a new two-year deal in July.

Having tallied the most assists (13) and expected assists (9.2 xA) in LaLiga last season, Dembele has recorded four league goal contributions this term (two goals, two assists).

 

The former Borussia Dortmund man is loving life at Camp Nou and revealed he told Xavi last year he would sign fresh terms with the Catalan giants.

"With Xavi's confidence, I had to stay. I remember a meeting between him and me in December, and I told him that I was going to sign my contract," he told RMC Sport.

"I feel good in the locker room, with all these young people. This whole team is developing well.

"I've always told Xavi that I wanted to stay at the club. There were negotiations and I didn't settle, but I didn't tell myself that I was going to leave the club.

"I've been here for the past five years, and it's better now because everyone is talking about football.

"I've always dreamed of playing for Barcelona. I have realised my dream, and I'm very happy."

Dembele is likely to be in action for France over the next week as Didier Deschamps' side take on Austria and Denmark in the Nations League. 

Everything appeared to be heading towards Barcelona and Ousmane Dembele parting on poor terms after a largely unsatisfactory association.

"Either he renews, or we look for an exit," Xavi said in January, fielding the latest in a series of questions about the winger.

With Dembele failing to agree to a new Barcelona contract at the start of 2022, director of football Mateu Alemany was even more forthright, declaring: "He must leave the club immediately."

Fast forward eight months, and the unpredictable attacker has emerged as a key cog in a revitalised Barca side, one tipped to compete with Real Madrid after making an unbeaten start in LaLiga.

Having been in the cold since Euro 2020, Dembele is also back in the France squad for their upcoming Nations League matches, with his sights set on claiming a spot in Didier Deschamps' party for the World Cup in Qatar.

Football loves a redemption arc, and that of Dembele in 2022 is up there with the very best in recent memory.

On the eve of his France return, Stats Perform looks at Dembele's journey from €105million flop to the creative hub of Xavi's side, asking whether a World Cup flourish is next for the winger.

Injury woes and the long shadow of Neymar

Barcelona's failings following Neymar's 2017 move to Paris Saint-Germain have been well-documented, with Dembele long viewed as the ultimate personification of the shambolic recruitment policy during Josep Maria Bartomeu's tenure.

The Blaugrana parted with an initial €105m for Dembele, who recorded 30 goal contributions (10 goals, 20 assists) and created 100 chances in his lone season with Borussia Dortmund.

That substantial fee saw Dembele, a talented yet raw 20-year-old, touted as a replacement for Neymar, a pressure that appeared to weigh heavily on the Frenchman; he needed over seven months to score his first goal in LaLiga, finally finding the net at Celta Vigo in April 2018.

While Ernesto Valverde led Barca to a domestic double in 2017-18, Dembele's own contribution was limited by a series of injury setbacks, which represented a sign of things to come.

 

Dembele made just 17 league appearances and 12 starts in his debut campaign, having been ruled out until January 2018 after suffering a serious hamstring injury within a month of his arrival.

In three of Dembele's first five campaigns at Barca, injuries ruled him out for 100 days or more. Between the beginning of 2017-18 and the end of 2020-21, meanwhile, he started just 36 per cent of the club's league games.

On the rare occasions Dembele did stay fit, meanwhile, his output was negligible in a side increasingly reliant on Lionel Messi's brilliance. Dembele's tally of 17 league goals and 14 assists in his first four seasons hardly represented value for Barcelona's mammoth investment, meaning the winger was considered ripe for a sale as the club's economic position worsened.

From contract rebel to key man: Spearheading the Xavi revival 

Even LaLiga's casual observers must have grown tired of discussions over the economic "levers" being pulled by Joan Laporta's regime. But before the sales of future TV rights and production companies, shifting Dembele was touted as a means by which to balance the books after the January arrival of Ferran Torres.

With a loan move for Adama Traore leaving Barcelona's forward line well-stocked, the message could not have been clearer; if Dembele would not agree to fresh terms, he was surplus to requirements.

But with Traore struggling on his return to Spain and Torres regularly deployed centrally, Xavi decided to utilise Dembele once the January transfer window closed. He was richly rewarded after reinstating him on the right of Barca's attack.

Since Xavi took charge in November 2021, Dembele's 17 assists in all competitions is bettered only by Messi (22) and Kevin De Bruyne (21) among players in Europe's top five leagues, while his 15 LaLiga assists during that time is a team-high.

Dembele also leads Barca's charts for chances created (63), chances created from open play (52) and touches in the opposing box (126) under Xavi in LaLiga, finally combining his menacing dribbling ability with genuine threat and creativity.

 

And Dembele's 68 dribbles completed in that time – also a team-high – show he has not sacrificed the individual skill that attracted Barcelona's attentions five years ago. 

Three months on from Dembele being booed by his own supporters during a Europa League clash with Napoli, Xavi said: "When he has not been involved, we have noticed."

The former midfield maestro was right. Barcelona won two-thirds of the league games Dembele started last season, and 47.8 per cent of those he didn't.

That impact meant Dembele's belated contract renewal, finalised in July, was received with enthusiasm by everyone at Camp Nou, with the winger subsequently going from strength to strength.

The tonic to Deschamps' blues?

If some thought the arrival of Raphinha might threaten Dembele's place in Xavi's side, he has made them eat their words at the start of the new campaign.

Having tallied the most assists (13) and expected assists (9.2 xA) in LaLiga last season, Dembele has recorded four league goal contributions since the August restart (two goals, two assists), forcing his way back into Deschamps' thoughts.

By the end of August, Dembele had been involved in more shots (15) as a consequence of ball carries than any other player in LaLiga, and his dynamic, unpredictable style may be just what Les Bleus require.

 

Dembele was used sparingly at Euro 2020, with Antoine Griezmann preferred alongside Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappe as France won just once in four outings. However, it's easy to see why Dembele's ability to hug either touchline might appeal to Deschamps, offering him tactical flexibility when several other options appear compromised. 

Griezmann's lack of game-time at Atletico Madrid has been subject to much debate in recent weeks, while Kingsley Coman is out of France's latest squad through injury. Benzema's own injury scare, meanwhile, will no doubt have sharpened Deschamps' mind on the need for a plan B.

With France failing to win any of their first four Nations League games this time around, Dembele's Barcelona revival may have come at the perfect time.

Should Dembele carry his club form onto the international stage, potentially contributing to the first successful World Cup defence since Brazil's 1962 win, his 2022 will surely go down as one of football's most emphatic comebacks. 

Jules Kounde opted to join Barcelona over Chelsea as he "preferred Xavi's speech" to Thomas Tuchel's.

The France international had looked set to sign for Chelsea during the most recent transfer window, only to put pen to paper on a five-year deal at Camp Nou.

Sevilla director of football Monchi suggested at the time that Barca pounced for Kounde after Chelsea had withdrawn their offer due to "having doubts".

However, in an interview with French outlet L'Equipe, Kounde insisted the decision was his own after being wooed by Barca head coach Xavi.

"First, I have come to a huge club, which has known good times and which, lately, has had less," he said.

"I come to a project that I would not call reconstruction, because we already have a competitive team, but rather, being upturned.

"I was interested in being part of this new wave, in search of titles, and to put Barca back where it has always been, among the best clubs. 

"Then there was the conversation with the coach. We talked about football. I felt a real confidence from him, that he had a real knowledge of myself, my game and my qualities.

"I spoke with Tuchel and I also felt that he wanted me to come, but I simply preferred Xavi's speech."

Chelsea have made a slow start to the 2022-23 season and recently brought an end to Tuchel's 20-month tenure.

Despite their high-profile financial issues, meanwhile, Barca have made a strong start to their campaign and are two points off LaLiga leaders Real Madrid after six matches.

Kounde was registered by Barcelona at the end of August, a month after joining, and has helped the Catalan giants to four clean sheets in his five appearances.

Indeed, the five clean sheets Barca have kept in their opening six league matches is a tally they did not reach until 21 games played last season.

And Kounde, one of two defenders alongside team-mate Alejandro Balde to have provided two assists in a single LaLiga match this term, believes he is well suited to Xavi's style.

"When I talked to Xavi he told me that my qualities correspond to his game plan, starting from the back, playing high, using my qualities of speed and anticipation," Kounde said. 

"He also wants an aggressive team – we are one of the teams that presses high.

"He saw me in this system and I too saw myself in this team that I saw make a pretty crazy rise in the table last season. 

"With Sevilla we were 15 points ahead of them in the middle of the season. Xavi arrived and I saw the changes he made and what direction he was going in. I liked it."

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."

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.

Xavi

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."

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