Barcelona manager Xavi did not hold back in his review of his team’s shock defeat to Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League on Tuesday.
- Barca fell to 1-0 defeat
- Result blows Group H wide open
- Xavi bemoaned lack of “intensity”
WHAT HAPPENED? The Ukrainian side blew Group H wide open thanks to a solitary Danylo Silkan strike five minutes before the break. Shakhtar now sit just three points behind both Barcelona and Porto in first and second, respectively, setting up a tantalising finish to the group stages. For Xavi, though, Tuesday’s result was an opportunity missed to all but wrap up qualification, and the Spaniard was irate with his team’s display on the night.
WHAT THEY SAID: “The Champions League demands the highest level and today we have not shown it, we are leaving angry,” Xavi told reporters after the match. “Intensity? No, today I would blame it on the game, we have not interpreted it correctly. We have to recover and improve. Nothing has gone as planned. It’s a clear step backwards. We have played one of the worst games in these two years… And at the most inopportune moment.
“We have to do a reset, we don’t feel comfortable. We are in a bad moment. It’s a mental issue. We are blocked, we do things wrong in general. We don’t apply pressure well and that takes its toll on us. We have to control the details of the game and make the players feel good on the pitch. We have to take a step forward.”
THE BIGGER PICTURE: Not only did Shakhtar’s stunning win allow them to make up ground in the group, but it also brought Porto level with the leaders after their win over Royal Antwerp on the same night. Defensive veteran Pepe broke records with his header as Sergio Conceicao’s side cruised to a 2-0 victory, setting up a tantalising matchup with Barcelona after the international break. The Catalans – and Xavi – will be aiming to avoid a third straight season without the Champions League knockouts.
But the Spaniard was quick to draw attention away from their Group H rivals, adding: “I’m not worried about the Porto game because we continue to depend on ourselves to qualify and I’m not thinking about anything else. At the moment the main thing is to recover for the game against Alaves. My job is for the players to regain confidence and dynamism. We have played very good games this season, now we are in a low moment and we have to recover the previous sensations.”
IN THREE PHOTOS:
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WHAT NEXT FOR BARCA? Indeed, Xavi’s attention turns to domestic matters this weekend. His side will need a win against Alaves on Sunday to keep up the pace with league leaders Girona, who are four points clear of Barcelona in top spot.