Football

Barcelona to watch Champions League fate in dressing room

Barcelona to watch Champions League fate in dressing room
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Barcelona head coach Xavi Hernandez said the squad will gather to watch Inter Milan take on Viktoria Plzen in the Camp Nou dressing room with the « small hope » of seeing their flagging Champions League campaign revived.

Barca host Bayern Munich on Wednesday but will already have been sentenced to a second straight season in the Europa League knockout stages if Inter beat Plzen in Group C’s early game.

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However, if the Czech side, who have lost all four of their group games so far, produce a draw or win at the San Siro, then Barca will be handed a Champions League lifeline.

« More than believing in miracles, we maintain a small hope that something can happen, » Xavi said in a news conference on Tuesday.

« Look, it’s complicated. We are in an uncomfortable situation where we no longer depend on ourselves, but you should never lose hope.

« We will meet at Camp Nou two hours before the Bayern game and we will be following the Inter match. We will all watch it together in the dressing room before we play. »

If Inter do drop points and Barca then beat Bayern, who have already booked their place in the round of 16, the second qualification spot from the group would be decided on the final match day when Inter travel to Munich and Barca go to Pilsen.

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However, even if it does not reach that point, Xavi said it is still important for an improving Barca side to show that they can compete with Europe’s best against Bayern, who won 2-0 when the sides met at the Allianz Arena in September.

After further setbacks against Inter and Real Madrid in recent weeks, Barca have responded with resounding wins against Villarreal and Athletic Club in LaLiga.

« Bayern are an intense, physical, well-coached side, one of the best in the world, and it is an important game for us regardless of what happens in Milan, » Xavi added.

« We want to win this game and show that we can compete at this level. When we lost in Munich, we played well but we were not clinical and the result was bad. This time we want the performance and the result. »

If Barca are knocked into the Europa League, Xavi said they will « compete like lions » to win it after the disappointment of being knocked out in the quarterfinal by Eintracht Frankfurt last season.

Barca will be without Sergi Roberto against Bayern after he dislocated his shoulder at the weekend. Xavi said Hector Bellerin is likely to take his place, allowing Jules Kounde to continue at centre-back alongside Eric Garcia.

Garcia is one of the players who took the brunt of the criticism in recent weeks when results dipped, but the former Manchester City defender insists he is able to rise above it.

« Obviously I gave the penalty away against Madrid and against Inter I could have been better, » he said in a news conference Tuesday.

« I am 21, I have room to improve. The criticism which lacks respect does not concern me. I accept constructive criticism. I know when I play well and when I don’t. I have people around me that tell me. The rest , people can say what they want, but it does not affect me.’

Barca are also still missing Andreas Christensen, Ronald Araujo and Memphis Depay through injury, while Bayern have traveled to Catalonia without goalkeeper Manuel Neuer or winger Leroy Sane, who both have knocks.

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