Barcelona could take a big step towards accomplishing one of their main objectives for the season this Tuesday when they take on Shakhtar Donetsk in their fourth Champions League group stage match, needing only a point to guarantee mathematical qualification for the Round of 16 of Europe’s elite competition.
It would be the first time in three years Barça would take part in the knockout stages of the Champions League and the first time under manager Xavi Hernández, who couldn’t rescue the team out of the hole left by Ronald Koeman in 2021 and failed to qualify out of a tough group with Bayern Munich and Inter Milan last season in his first full campaign in charge.
The coach has undeniably done a great job rebuilding Barça domestically, winning two titles last season and dominating La Liga with a great defensive record. But the European shortcomings have been clear and painful to watch, and a lot of pressure is on Xavi specifically to make Barça competitive in the continent in 2023-24.
And Xavi is aware of that pressure, but sounded confident in his pre-match press conference on Monday that Barça are on the path to having a big season in Europe.
We have been meeting the objectives we had set for ourselves. We arrived and saved the season, the second season we won two titles and I think we are halfway to the total success of becoming great in Europe again. We have done a very good job.
Source: Mundo Deportivo
We won’t know until next February when the knockout rounds start if Xavi has indeed accomplished the goal of getting his team ready to compete in Europe this season, but the first step of that journey will be complete with a good result against Shakhtar.