Barcelona (AFP) – Barcelona hosts Belgian Antwerp on Tuesday (7:00 p.m. GMT) on the first day of the Champions League, in which the Barça club wants to leave its ghosts behind after failing to advance from the group stage in the last two seasons.
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The Barça club, current league champion, faces the match lively after its latest results that keep it in second place in the Spanish championship, two points behind Real Madrid.
“We face a competition that is very important for us this season, playing a great role in this competition would make us take a leap in quality as a team and as a club,” Barcelona coach Xavi Hernández said on Saturday.
Happy after beating Betis 5-0, Xavi considered that “we can do it (a great role in the Champions League), I think there is a squad and confidence for it.”
The elimination of the Barça club in the group stage in the last two seasons was a hard blow that the Catalans hope to be able to leave behind this campaign with a team reinforced with their latest additions such as Ilkay Gundogan and the Portuguese Joao Cancelo and Joao Félix.
The two Portuguese players made their debut as starters and scorers on Saturday against Betis, which could lead Xavi to count on them again on Tuesday at the Montjuic Olympic Stadium, Barça’s temporary home while the remodeling works are carried out. from the Camp Nou.
Lewandowski “makes a difference”
The Barça team also arrives at the match after recovering the best version of its striker Robert Lewandowki, scorer of three goals in the last three league games, after a limping start to the season.
“I see him enjoying it,” said Xavi after the match against Betis, insisting that “he scores goals and makes a difference.”
Barça is emerging as the favorite against the debutant Antwerp and as one of the main contenders to be the leader of group G, in which, in addition to the Belgian team, there are also Portuguese Porto and Ukrainian Shakhtar Donetsk.
The match could be the opportunity for Xavi Hernández to give 16-year-old Lamine Yamal his first minutes in the Champions League, which would make him the second youngest player to debut in the top continental competition.
The Barça winger would be a few days behind Youssoufa Moukoko, who debuted in the Champions League at 16 years and 18 days with Borussia Dortmund in the 2-1 victory over Zenit Saint Petersburg in December 2020.
Tuesday’s meeting will serve as the framework for the reunion of Xavi Hernández with his former teammate on the pitch Mark Van Bommel, current coach of Antwerp, which finished champion of the Belgian league last year after 66 years.
Antwerp will go to the Olympic Stadium after beating Westerlo 3-0 on Saturday, placing itself at the top of the Belgian championship.
The Belgians appear on paper as the weakest team in the bracket, but they have some qualities such as their scoring ability.
Van Bommel’s men have scored 13 goals in six league games, of which five have come from Vincent Janssen, who is emerging as the danger that the Barça defense will have to watch out for.
© 2023 AFP
The Post Barcelona and a new Champions League to leave behind their European ghosts
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