FC Barcelona may have been eliminated from the UEFA Champions League, but manager Xavi Hernandez is still following the competition. In a press conference on Wednesday, he admitted that he will be watching the second leg of the last-16 clash between Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain. As expected, he is rooting for the French giants due to the fact that former teammates Lionel Messi and Neymar Jr. are currently playing for the club.
“Today’s is a big match for Leo (Messi), for PSG and for Real Madrid. I will watch the game. I won’t lie to you saying I will dine out. I will watch and enjoy the game,” he said, as quoted by Marca. Just like the rest of the football world, Xavi knows a good clash when he sees one.
“Everybody who likes football will watch it. The best team will win,” he said before expressing his support to his former teammates. “My best wishes to Leo and Neymar. They are my friends. The best team will win. But if Leo Messi and Neymar win then even better.”
Xavi then added that he is still feeling the sting of having missed out on the knockout stages of the tournament after his club’s poor showing in the group stage. “Pity we aren’t playing in the Champions League,” he said.
Incidentally, the press conference was held ahead of Barcelona’s own last-16 encounter against Galatasaray in the Europa League. The Blaugrana were relegated to the second-tier competition after finishing only third in their UCL group. This is the first time that Barcelona failed to advance in 18 seasons.
Earlier this year, Xavi had vowed that his main priority is to get his club back into the Champions League next season. As of now, they are still in contention to win the Europa League, which will give them an automatic Champions League pass. Likewise, they have managed to claw their way up to third place in La Liga, something that had seemed to be difficult just a few months ago.
They have had a resurgence after the winter transfer window, and Xavi is confident that they will be able to stay in the top four spots in La Liga. In fact, he has not even ruled out the possibility of challenging for the title if their streak of good results continues.
Back to Thursday’s game. Galatasaray have not been having a great domestic season, but Xavi does not want to underestimate the opponent. “I don’t see us as favourites. We don’t know the competition. We’ve never won the title,” he said. “I think the favourites should be the last champions. Sevilla, for instance, are much more favourites than us.”
He is approaching the match with confidence, however, stating that he feels they are definitely contenders for the title.