Barcelona UCL charge: Xavi’s imminent exit releases tension ahead of PSG clash

Over the past few weeks on social media, fans have decried the state of the clashes in the UEFA Champions League.

While most of it has been fan banter and social media agenda, the opinions expressed are not far from the truth. This is especially the case with Barcelona in the last few years.

However, Barcelona are now enjoying a renaissance in the competition which coincided with the exit announcement of their manager, Xavi Hernandez.

Xavi’s imminent exit releases tension ahead of PSG clash
Xavi Hernandez (Credit - FC Barcelona Noticias)

We want to explore how the team has fared since he revealed this decision and how they could fare in the rest of the competition.

Timeline of Barcelona’s performances since Xavi announced his exit

Xavi announced his Barcelona exit on 27 January 2024 after their 5 - 3 home loss to Villarreal in La Liga. Before then, he had been facing lots of criticism for his in-game tactics, substitution, and management.

Credit - FC Barcelona

The club was knocked out of the Copa Del Rey, effectively canceling hopes of a treble. They lost 4 - 2 to Athletic Club Bilbao in their quarter-final tie in the competition. Only two weeks before that defeat, they lost the Supercopa de Espaňa final to their El Clasico rivals, Real Madrid by a scoreline of four to one.

Struggles in the Copa del Rey, losses to Girona in La Liga and Royal Antwerp in the Champions League, as well as unconvincing and unsustainable wins, made up the bulk of the Catalan club’s season at the time.

His exit announcement changed the trajectory of the club.

They have not lost a single match since then in all competitions (6W, 3D) and have played the best football they are capable of. They have also strengthened their position as the model football institution when it comes to the development of young players (the emergence of Lamine Yamal and Pau Cubarsi in 2024 has been key to their successes).

One can argue that they have not faced competition like Paris Saint-Germain in the period under consideration, but facing them at this moment is the best test for Xavi’s rejuvenated team.

PSG vs Barcelona UCL head-to-head

Barcelona and PSG meet quite often in the Champions League. Barcelona’s slump in the competition (read as their failure to make it to the knockouts) in recent years has made this almost canonical meeting impossible for three seasons now.

Their last meeting was in the 2020/21 season when Lionel Messi last played for them. Football and the world were just healing from the effects of the worldwide enforced lockdown thanks to the breakout of the COVID-19 viral disease.

Luckily for PSG, Kylian Mbappe, who has never lost form since his incredible debut for AS Monaco in the 2016/17 season, guided them past the five-time winners that year. PSG would knock Barcelona out of the round of 16 by a 5 - 2 aggregate scoreline, four of which were scored at the Camp Nou.

It was sweet revenge for their last round of 16 meeting in Mbappe's professional debut season, in which Barcelona pulled the biggest comeback in the history of the sport to win 6 - 5 on aggregate.

Overall, both sides have met 12 times in the competition dating back to the 1994/95 season. They have won four games each and drawn four. History has it that they are both equally matched.

Without Lionel Messi and with a long doctor's list of injuries, however, the Parisiens, who have Mbappe, may have the upper hand this time around.

Where to get PSG vs Barcelona tickets for the UCL 2023/24 quarter-final season

On 10 April 2024, the first leg of another iteration of the PSG vs Barcelona clash will take place. The La Liga giants will travel to Paris for the first leg.

Both clubs have released tickets to fans and tourists who would like to witness a Champions League classic. The tickets are already sold out, which has left many fans stranded. Luckily for them, platforms like exist to help fans secure extra PSG tickets.

The tickets will not be available for long because of the nature of the match so fans will have to visit the platform or any other trusted ticket reselling platforms to purchase the PSG vs Barcelona tickets.

Both sides are preparing for the big clash. Xavi especially feels confident in his team's ability to progress to the semi-finals, citing his exit announcement as being the motivation they needed to improve their season.

He also stated that their history in the competition and his knowledge of PSG’s coaching staff gives him an edge.

“It is a very complicated draw, one of the most complicated rivals we could have got,” he said. “I know Luis Enrique and his staff, how they work. I have confidence and hope. We have one of the most difficult rivals, but we have the second leg at home. It is the moment to dream.”

Player reactions to the draw 

Xavi's exit announcement improved the confidence at the club. They have earned 17 out of 21 points available in La Liga since then and are looking even more dangerous.

Just as he believes he can beat his former manager, Luis Enrique, his players believe Mbappe and Co will not beat them.

"There are eight teams who are the favorites," said Raphinha. "We knew any draw was going to be difficult and PSG is no different. However, we know what we can give to win.”

Robert Lewandowski echoed the same sentiments and also challenged his teammates to gear up and be better as the PSG match approaches.

"It's not just Kylian Mbappé, but also other players like Ousmane Dembélé. I think this match can be very emotional for him. I am confident that we will perform better than in the two games against Napoli and make it to the semifinals."

New signing Victor Roque also chipped in with his opinion. “It’s going to be a tough match. There will always be difficult matches, but whoever wishes to be crowned champions cannot choose the teams they want. We need to work hard, play well and qualify.”

Football fans are gearing up for a match that will make history either way it goes. Barcelona fans, meanwhile, are hoping that the momentum their team has locked on to since Xavi's exit announcement will not die.

Cover Credit - FC Barcelona Noticias

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