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Xavi sees ‘great’ Barcelona side in the making

SoccerNews in La Liga 12 Dec 2023

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Xavi believes he is on the way to creating a “great Barcelona” side but he wants improvement as they close their Champions League group stage at Royal Antwerp.

Barca are already guaranteed a place in the last 16 and are virtually assured top spot in Group H, barring some unlikely results.

The Spanish club have not been at the top table of European football for a while, having last won the Champions League in 2015, but Xavi, who was a key player in the side that dominated the game a decade ago, can see progress.

“We want to end the group stage having done what we need to do,” he said on Barcelona’s website.

“We have to be much more effective. We create a lot of chances to win games earlier. We have to be better in front of goal, but also improve our defensive robustness.

“We have to show consistency to achieve targets and trophies. We are on the way to creating a great Barca side.

“The team is together and a close-knit group.”

The Belgian side have lost all five of their group games so far, but Xavi still respects the team managed by his former team-mate Mark van Bommel.

“They are a good team and Van Bommel is doing a very good job, and he wants to leave a mark playing football based on teamwork,” Xavi added.

“We will decide which players will feature after training and prior to the game, but it is a good chance to give opportunities to young players and others who haven’t played that much.

“Logically we will make changes.”

Inaki Pena is almost certain to continue in goal after Marc-Andre ter Stegen had back surgery last week.

“The injury to Ter Stegen is not good news,” the goalkeeper said. “It makes me proud to be playing in this shirt.

“I have trained every day thinking that this day would come because you never know what can happen. At a club like Barca you can’t relax for a single day.

“I have been training for a long time with Ter Stegen and it is a pleasure to be able to learn from one of the best players in the world.

“Picking things up from him has made me a better goalkeeper.”

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