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Unpredictable Xavi’s Barca eye Champions League knockout redemption

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Unpredictable Xavi’s Barca eye Champions League knockout redemption

Barcelona discover themselves on the cusp of Champions League redemption, with a golden alternative to safe their passage to the knockout spherical set for Hamburg, the place the Spanish champions are poised to face off in opposition to Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday.

Barcelona’s journey has been fraught with heartache within the Champions League group stage over the previous two years, however a fourth consecutive victory in Group H may mark a turning level.

Their final style of such a streak dates again to 2021, after they encountered Kylian Mbappe’s Paris Saint-Germain in a dramatic last-16 conflict that noticed them exit the competitors.

Certainly, the arrival of Xavi as their coach in November of that 12 months has introduced a measure of success, culminating of their La Liga triumph final season.

However, the European stage has remained elusive, leaving followers craving for the classic Barcelona aptitude that when dazzled the footballing world.

There have been glimpses of brilliance, such because the resounding 5-0 victories over Real Betis in La Liga and Royal Antwerp within the Champions League in September.

Yet, the consistency has eluded them, a lot to the chagrin of each followers and their esteemed coach.

A major instance of this inconsistency was their encounter with Shakhtar in October.

Despite dominating the primary half, Barcelona didn’t seal the deal and endured a nervy end because the Ukrainians pressed for an equalizer.

This uneven efficiency echoed of their La Liga Clasico simply three days later, as Jude Bellingham’s gorgeous double propelled Real Madrid to victory after Ilkay Gündoğan’s opener.

It left Xavi pondering the mysteries of soccer, admitting that self-critique was so as.

Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez during the La Liga match against Athletic Club at the Lluis Companys Olympic Stadium, Barcelona, Spain, Oct. 22, 2023. (Getty Images Photo)

Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez in the course of the La Liga match in opposition to Athletic Club on the Lluis Companys Olympic Stadium, Barcelona, Spain, Oct. 22, 2023. (Getty Images Photo)

In distinction, Barcelona managed a 1-0 win in opposition to Real Sociedad final Saturday, even after they gave the impression to be on the again foot all through the sport, conjuring little when it comes to assault.

It was solely Ronald Araujo’s stoppage-time winner that salvaged the day. Xavi summed it up by saying, “Football sometimes is inexplicable.”

Xavi’s model of soccer is a far cry from the dazzling period beneath Pep Guardiola and even the swashbuckling performances that led them to Champions League glory in 2015 beneath Luis Enrique’s steerage.

While Xavi acknowledges that dominating in his taking part in days could also be a factor of the previous, he stays resolute in his pursuit to emulate their predecessors.

However, the lackluster efficiency in opposition to Real Sociedad is deemed “unacceptable” by the coach.

He emphasised the necessity for depth and declared, “To win, and win not playing well, is something a champion team does.”

The return of midfielder Pedri, who had been sidelined since August, is seen as a possible increase to Barcelona’s fluidity.

Xavi believes that Pedri’s presence will breathe new life into the staff’s dynamics, providing a ray of hope.

Robert Lewandowski, who made a return from an ankle harm, has but to regain his sharpness and the prospect of returning to Germany, the place he excelled with Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, may present the best platform for a resurgence.

Furthermore, Xavi would possibly ponder shifting away from the three-center-back formation, which has been employed not too long ago to ease defensive tasks on Joao Cancelo, a promising Portuguese right-back whose defensive prowess has but to match his attacking aptitude.

As Xavi continues to seek for a dependable system, the puzzle of assembling Barcelona’s greatest lineup when everyone seems to be match stays unresolved. An abundance of central midfielders and rising skills like Lamine Yamal and Fermin Lopez provides to Xavi’s choice dilemmas, albeit in a constructive sense.

By securing qualification on Tuesday with two matches to spare, Xavi may grant himself beneficial time to fine-tune his techniques for the extra demanding challenges that await Barcelona within the later phases of the Champions League.

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