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No excuses! Xavi and Barcelona must be relishing Champions League draw

A very winnable group

UEFA Champions League 2023/24 Group Stage Draw Photo by Valerio Pennicino - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images

When consideration is give to who Barcelona could’ve been paired with in the Champions League group stage, the Catalans have to be happy with how the draw went on Thursday evening.

With no disrespect intended to any of their three opponents, if Barca are on their game this season, they should qualify from Group H if not win it comfortably.

Of course, Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk and Royal Antwerp will all have something to say about that, and complacency could be Barca’s biggest enemy ahead of each game.

It’s Royal Antwerp’s first foray into the competition and many will have them down as the whipping boys, but it’s important to factor in that they have nothing to lose and to that end, the freedom with which they can play their football might see a few surprises sprung.

Football fans know only too well that the occasional David v Goliath fixture can still go the way of the minnows, so if nothing else Xavi must ensure the Blaugranes are completely professional throughout the group stage.

Under normal circumstances, a trip to a cold and frosty Donetsk would be a long-haul trip that Barca could do without, however, Lady Luck appears to be on their side in this regard too.

UEFA Awards 2022/23 Press Conference - 2023/24 European Club Football Season Kick-Off Photo by Marcio Machado/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images

However, the Ukrainian side are expected to play their Champions League games this season at Hamburg’s Volksparkstadion, so no long away trips during the group stage is a huge bonus for the club.

On paper, the game against Porto will be expected to be the toughest, and the Portuguese side have certainly started their domestic campaign well, winning all three games so far.

The match-up will also see Barcelona come up against a familiar face. Nico Gonzalez swapped Barca for Porto over the summer but is set for a swift reunion with his former side.

For any number of reasons, the draw couldn’t have worked out better for Xavi and the squad, and if they can’t qualify into the knockout stages - which is arguably where they belong - then there’ll be more than a Spanish inquisition looking into the reasons why.

Ahead of their next La Liga game, this news will have given everyone a huge lift.

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