(Reuters) – Barcelona manager Xavi Hernandez is confident his side will be among the clubs who will challenge for the Champions League title this season after the Spanish giants were knocked out of the competition in the group stage last term.
“We will compete and dream big. Otherwise, I would have stayed at home,” Xavi told a news conference on the eve of Wednesday’s opening Group C game against Viktoria Plzen.
“Why can’t we win this competition? Barca is about winning. I like to win, I can’t conceive competing without winning.
“Being favorites is something else. You have to be humble. Every match is going to be a war. We haven’t won a Champions League title here since 2015.”
New signing Robert Lewandowski has delighted Barca fans in their three consecutive LaLiga wins, scoring five goals, including two consecutive doubles.
The arrival of the twice FIFA Best Player of the Year from Bayern Munich has upped the expectation levels at the Camp Nou after Barca endured a frustrating 2021-22 season following the departure of club great Lionel Messi to Paris St Germain.
With new signing Raphinha playing well on the right wing, a resurgent Ousmane Dembele finally showing his potential and Ansu Fati getting back to form, morale could not be higher.
“I see every day how the fans are. The jerseys have sold out, people stop us and cheer us on the street. We have to keep going, it’s a positive feeling,” Xavi said.
“We welcome the pressure here, there is pressure every day when you are at Barcelona.
“We have won five Champions League titles under pressure. Dreaming about winning again is not adding pressure.”
Xavi is aware that the first group game at home against the group’s weakest team in Viktoria Plzen could be tricky, with matches against Bayern and Inter Milan to come.
“I know that people see us as the favourites, but they (Plzen) are a very physical, very hard working team. It’s a trap game,” he said.
“For now we need to be focused on our goal which is advancing to the knockout stage. We have to reach at least the last 16 in such a difficult competition and a very complicated group.
“The objectives, however, are winning titles, but for tomorrow we have to win in our debut.”
(Reporting by Fernando Kallas; Editing by Ken Ferris)