MUNICH: Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez on Tuesday called on his side to “make history” this week by handing Bayern Munich their first home defeat in the Champions League’s group stages since 2013.
“Barca can beat anyone,“ Xavi insisted on the eve of Wednesday’s match in Munich, where the Spanish giants have lost three and drawn one of their four previous Champions League games.
“If we win, it will be Barca’s first victory here in Munich. We have a great opportunity to make history.”
Xavi, 41, took charge of the struggling side four weeks ago, but suffered his first defeat as boss last weekend at home to Real Betis.
Bayern are already into the last 16 as group winners, but want a sixth win from six games in the group stages when they host Barcelona, who they trounced 3-0 at the Camp Nou in September.
Barcelona are second in Group E, but need a win at the Allianz Arena, which will be void of supporters due to high numbers of Covid-19 cases in Bavaria, to guarantee a last 16 spot.
Manchester City were the last team to beat Bayern in the group stages almost exactly eight years ago and Barcelona defender Gerard Pique backed his side to upset the Germans.
“Of course it’s possible. It’s a difficult match in a difficult stadium,“ said the 34-year-old.
“We are playing for our lives. Tomorrow, the objective will be to protect our goal and then it will be enough to score.”
Bayern have dominated this tie in recent meetings with September’s 3-0 win in the group stages following the historic 8-2 thrashing in the 2020 quarter-finals in Lisbon.
“We have to concentrate on the present and the future,“ insisted Pique.
“It’s a match that will serve to prove that we still have our place at the highest level. The rest is history.”
Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann plans to field “the best available” team, but at least two of his stars are carrying knocks.
“Leon (Goretzka) broke off training again, he probably won’t play, Serge Gnabry as well,“ Nagelsmann said on Tuesday.
The plum European tie also comes too early for both Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and Joshua Kimmich, who are on the verge of leaving quarantine after testing positive for Covid-19.
Nagelsmann revealed that in Choupo-Moting’s case, “the after-effects of the infection are still such that we will wait until next week, even if he’s negative”.
Kimmich is set to end house isolation on the day of the game, but “after a four-week break, it makes no sense” for him to play, added Nagelsmann.
The Bayern boss and his squad want a perfect set of six wins to round off the group stages as reaching the last 16 “was important and a sixth win would be nice”.
The only time Bayern previously earned six wins from six was in 2019/20 on the way to winning the Champions League as part of the treble alongside the Bundesliga and German Cup titles. - AFP