Barcelona brought an end to their UEFA Champions League campaign for the 2022/23 season with a 4-2 win over Viktoria Plzen on Tuesday night.
Coming into the game knowing that the result would be inconsequential, Xavi made several changes to his side. And the Catalans took the lead courtesy of a Marcos Alonso strike in the sixth minute before Ferran Torres made it 2-0 close to half-time.
The home team pulled one back early in the second half through Tomas Chory but Torres reinstated Barça’s two-goal cushion immediately after. However, Chory netted his second strike minutes later to set up for an enticing finish, but Pablo Torre scored in the 75th minute to seal the win for the Blaugrana.
Starting his first match for the team in all competitions, the 19-year-old midfielder looked good and earned the praise of his manager Xavi after the game.
“He attacked the space well and today it wasn’t easy for the midfielders because they were being marked individually,” the Barcelona manager said.
Torre had to come off the pitch with a suspected injury late in the game, but Xavi has confirmed that it was nothing but a cramp. “Pablo Torre is fine, he had a muscle cramp,” he said.
While Torre’s condition might not be serious, the same cannot be said of Franck Kessie, who could be sidelined for a lengthy period after picking up a hamstring injury.
“He is screwed. I think he has hurt his hamstring. He was playing a good game in the midfield position, winning duels, and was good at the start,” Xavi said.
The 42-year-old club legend also hailed youngster Marc Casado, who made his first-team debut for Barça on the night, saying: “He is a player that I like a lot because he competes, he is a winner and neat with the ball. And he can play in many positions.”
Discussing Barcelona’s exit from the UEFA Champions League, Xavi added: “The assessment is negative. We had it in our hands after playing very well in Munich and in phases in Milan but we didn’t do the job. Bayern and Inter took advantage of their moments, we didn’t.”
On the performance against Viktoria, Xavi insisted that he was not entirely pleased, stating that there were some things his team could have done better on the night.
“I’m satisfied with a few things and not so much with some others. It was a difficult game, they were very intense and created many chances. We were good in attack, we didn’t lose many balls and we attacked the spaces well. But we suffered so much in defence,” he said.
Barcelona will enter the UEFA Europa League after finishing third in Group C. It will not be easy for the Catalans in Europe’s second-tier competition as they will be battling teams like Arsenal, Ajax, PSV Eindhoven, Manchester United and Real Sociedad.
But Xavi was positive that Barcelona can go the distance in the Europa League, saying: “There remains the Europa League and we are one of the candidates. The objective is to compete in it and if we can, win it. We have to go far. It is a complicated competition. It is a challenge for the team.”
The manager also commented about speculations claiming that Gerard Pique had been named in Spain’s 55-man provisional squad for the FIFA World Cup even though the veteran defender has retired from international football.
“They have told us that there is a list and they have told us that it is a bit confidential. I am not the coach and I will not say anything about this,” Xavi said.