'Dreaming is free, so why can't we win?' – Xavi says Barcelona can be Champions League kings again

·3-min read

Xavi believes Barcelona can end an eight-year wait for Champions League glory this season as he told his players to "dream" of lifting the trophy.

The head coach sends his side into their opener against Viktoria Plzen on Wednesday, desperate for them to avoid a repeat of the last campaign's group-stage exit.

Barcelona finished behind Bayern Munich and Benfica, with Xavi appointed midway through that group campaign after Ronald Koeman was sacked.

The serious damage had been done by a 3-0 loss at Benfica, and Xavi could not drag Barcelona through to the knockout rounds.

However, he has had two busy transfer windows since then and Barcelona are a new-look and refreshed team, with much of their previous baggage shaken off.

Last season's failure in Europe inevitably hurt more when Barcelona's great rivals Real Madrid went on to beat Liverpool in the final, but Xavi wants to move on.

"The main target now is to get through the group stage," said Xavi, "then we'll see.

"Dreaming is free so why can't we win this competition? But we have to start by taking the three points tomorrow."

Xavi was a substitute in the final of the 2014-15 Champions League when Barcelona beat Juventus 3-1 in Berlin, thanks to goals from Ivan Rakitic, Luis Suarez and Neymar.

Now directing matters from the touchline, he is reluctant to predict how Barcelona will fare, but says there is no harm in having lofty goals.

"We are going to compete and dream of winning the Champions League, otherwise I wouldn't be here," Xavi said. "I want to win. We have to be very humble. Since 2015 we haven't won the Champions League and last year we went into the Europa League.

"You have to think that every game is going to be a war. We have had a very difficult group."

With Bayern and Inter alongside Barcelona and Plzen in Group C, Xavi's remark certainly stands up to scrutiny. Although it may not play out this way, Plzen will be seen as the team the big three must beat, before thrashing out the top places.

Xavi spoke highly of Plzen's counter-attacking qualities, but anything other than three points at Camp Nou would be majorly anti-climactic.

"This is the Champions League and we want to start well. It is the most difficult group in recent years, but we want to go through and reach the last 16," Xavi said.

The Barcelona boss will look towards Robert Lewandowski to propel the Catalans through to the knockout rounds, after his previous success for Bayern in the competition.

Lewandowski has scored more goals than any other player in the Champions League across the last three seasons, with 33 goals in 26 games.

Should he score against Plzen, it would make him only the third player to score for both Barcelona and Bayern in the competition, after Mark van Bommel and Philippe Coutinho.

Lewandowski netted nine goals in five home games for Bayern in the Champions League last season, which might augur well for Wednesday.

Xavi will be without Miralem Pjanic, with the midfielder bound for Sharjah FC, and is set to make changes from the side that beat Sevilla 3-0 in LaLiga on Saturday.

"There will be rotation," Xavi said, confirming the likes of Jordi Alba and Ansu Fati could step up from their weekend substitute roles. "There is tiredness and discomfort. The match against Sevilla was a war.

"Let's compete in the Champions League and dream of winning it. In our history we have won it five times. We'll try to compete to go as far as we can."