Xavi refuses to label Barcelona as Europa League favourites

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Xavi has claimed Barcelona are candidates to triumph in the Europa League, but did not go as far as to call his side favourites.

Barca ran out 4-2 winners in their final Champions League game – a dead rubber against Viktoria Plzen.

Though they managed only two wins in their Champions League campaign, Barca will be one of the strongest, if not the strongest, sides in Europe's second-tier club competition.

While Xavi expects his side to be competitive, he did not claim they are outright frontrunners to succeed.

"I would say that we are candidates to win the Europa League," he said, sidestepping a direct answer when asked if Barca were favourites.

"There is a very nice Europa League left to play for, and at Barca, we are a candidate who can fight for it and achieve success."

To qualify for the last 16, Barca will need to head through a play-off round against second-place sides from the Europa League group stage.

They successfully defeated Napoli in the same bracket last season following another early Champions League exit, ultimately losing to eventual winners Eintracht Frankfurt in the quarter-finals.

On another curtailed run at Europe's biggest prize, Xavi added: "The feedback is negative. This stage had its moments, and we didn't take our chances.

"Bayern Munich and Inter did. We couldn't win in Munich or Milan. This is the balance in the end."

Franck Kessie was forced off with a hamstring injury in the second half against Plzen and Xavi admitted the Ivory Coast international does not look to be in good shape.

"He is bad," he acknowledged. "He has hurt his hamstring. He has had the bad luck of an injury."