Xavi: Bayern trip no ‘house of horror’ for Barca

Despite some gory defeats for Barcelona at the Allianz Arena in recent years, coach Xavi Hernandez insists his team are not entering a “house of horror” when they face Bayern Munich on Tuesday.

Barca lost 3-0 in Munich in the Champions League group stage last season and have failed to win in six visits to their German counterparts, drawing twice and losing four times for an aggregate score of 14-4.

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On top of that, the 8-2 defeat in the quarterfinal in Lisbon in 2020 remains omnipresent heading into this week’s fixture, with both teams tied on three points at the top of Group C following the opening games.

“I wouldn’t say it’s a house of horror, it’s Bayern Munich,” Xavi smiled when asked about Barca’s poor record in Munich at a news confernece on Monday.

“I’ve experienced both sides of the coin, beating them and losing to them. I know [recent results have not been favourable], but football is cyclical.

“It’s true we have never won here, which shows the difficulty of this week’s game. But we are in good form and we are excited for Tuesday.”

A lot has changed at Barcelona since they last lost in Munich nine months ago, a result which saw Xavi’s side eliminated from the Champions League in the group stage for the first time in 20 years.

They signed eight players this summer for over €150 million, including Bayern striker Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha from Leeds United and Sevilla‘s Jules Kounde, who are all expected to start on Tuesday, and have 13 points from 15 after five LaLiga games.

“Everything is different,” Xavi added. “We have improved in many aspects and we feel capable of competing.

“There have been so many changes but above all I would say the mentality. After that defeat, I told the players that this is Barca, that we have to run, work hard, and show personality. It was not the image of Barca that we wanted.

“The mentality has now changed. We have more personality now. The signings have also had an affect and wins breed confidence.”

Lewandowski has made a big difference. The Poland striker has scored nine goals in six appearances since moving to Barca for €45m and Xavi says he is relishing facing his former side.

“Robert is fine,” Xavi said. “He’s relaxed, calm, confident. He is a natural leader for the team. It’s a special game for him and he is really motivated.

“He rested at the weekend so he’s fresh and he is in good form. Obviously, Robert is one of our arms in attack, but we have other players, too, and we want to show that on Tuesday.”

Lewandowski spent eight years at Bayern alongside Thomas Muller, who joked earlier on Monday he will have to remember not to pass to him when he makes his return to the Allianz Arena.

“For the past 10 days, Sadio [Mane] has been having fun telling me not to pass the ball to Lewy by accident,” Muller said in a news conference.

“We have to play our game, but we can’t let Lewy play his game. He’s a top striker, he’s dangerous in or close to the box. We have to stop him from getting into shooting positions.”

Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann, meanwhile, hopes Lewandowski is given a warm reception by Bayern supporters.

“I will be happy if our fans give him a good reception,” he said. “That would be normal when someone has done so much for the club.

“He was an important part of the Bayern family. I am looking forward to seeing him again. We spoke a couple of weeks ago, not about football, but it will be nice to see him in person.”

Bayern, who have drawn three in a row in the Bundesliga but beat Internazionale 2-0 in Europe last week, will be without Kingsley Coman, while Barca have travelled to Germany with a full squad.


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