Xavi hails Barcelona winning mentality and Borussia Dortmund top Champions League ‘group of death’

Barcelona manager Xavi said reaching Champions League knockout statges was a ‘step in the right direction’

Reuters
Wednesday 29 November 2023 09:56 GMT
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Barcelona secured their place in the Champions League knockout stages on Tuesday
Barcelona secured their place in the Champions League knockout stages on Tuesday (Getty Images)

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Louise Thomas

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Barcelona manager Xavi said his side have shown a winning mentality in the Champions League after they sealed their return to the knockout stages of Europe’s elite club competition for the first time in three seasons on Tuesday.

Joao Cancelo and Joao Felix scored in each half to earn Barcelona a 2-1 comeback win at home against Porto that took the Group H leaders to 12 points from five matches.

A draw against already-eliminated Antwerp in their final group fixture will be enough to seal top spot.

“We needed this after two years,” Xavi said. “We reacted well and displayed a winning mentality on several occasions.

“This was an important step in the right direction. It means a lot to the club.

Xavi hailed Barcelona after their qualification from Group H
Xavi hailed Barcelona after their qualification from Group H (Getty Images)

“That’s the first of our targets achieved in the Champions League. It has calmed us down and boosted our confidence, especially that of the players.”

Tuesday’s win comes on the heels of a disappointing 1-1 draw at Rayo Vallecano in LaLiga, a result which saw them slip to fourth, four points behind arch-rivals Real Madrid.

“The feeling is of happiness and of doing things well. We are progressing. But I don’t feel liberated, I feel happy,” the Spaniard said.

“You never solve all the problems at Barcelona, but it’s a day to congratulate the team and the club for advancing.

“There are many things to improve, of course. We have to be humble. We have done some things very well, others not so,” said Xavi, adding that he hoped the victory would be a turning point.

Barca next host Atletico Madrid in the league on Sunday.

In Group F, Borussia Dortmund had proved the doubters wrong by securing qualification from a Champions League group of heavy hitters, head coach Edin Terzic said, after his side won 3-1 at AC Milan on Tuesday.

Borussia Dortmund secure qualification from ‘group of death’
Borussia Dortmund secure qualification from ‘group of death’ (AP)

Drawn alongside Paris St-Germain, Newcastle United and Milan, Dortmund got off to a woeful start in their campaign by taking just a point from their opening two matches, but then won three games straight to ensure a top-two finish in Group F.

“We all remember that evening after the draw when they reported about the ‘Group of Death,’” Terzic told reporters.

“We also remember the first game in Paris when everyone told us after the defeat now it’s going to be difficult.

“And then after the 0-0 at home against Milan, they said, yes, now it’s over. And then we went there as leaders in this group,” he added.

Terzic said injury issues made things difficult ahead of the Milan game.

“We didn’t talk about it like that before the game, but you got a message almost every 30 minutes, every 60 minutes,” he added.

“The (doctor) came with new information, who can make the squad, who can’t, who can play a half and who can’t... it wasn’t easy and yet the lads fought their way through it today.”

The three other teams remain in contention for a spot in the knockout rounds going into the final round of fixtures on Dec. 13, with Dortmund hosting PSG and Milan visiting Newcastle.

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