Xavi: Barca embrace Champions League favourites tag

The playmaker has welcomed the tough challenges ahead as they prepare to tackle AC Milan in the last 16 and Real Madrid in the second leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final

Barcelona midfielder Xavi admits there is a lot of pressure on the Blaugrana to succeed in the Champions League, but insists the team are happy to accept the challenge.

Tito Vilanova’s side are among the favourites to lift the trophy at Wembley in May, and the playmaker is confident the team can live up to their billing despite the absence of the coach due to illness.

“We’re missing Tito but everything’s carrying on the same,” he told Sport.

“We accept we are the big favourites for the Champions League. Having so much expected of us is a lot of pressure, but at the same time, we accept the challenge.”

However, Xavi was keen to highlight the threat posed by AC Milan, pointing to the history of the club in Europe as proof that they will be a tough team to overcome in their last-16 tie.

“We have to compete,” he continued. “Milan aren’t just any old team. They have players that are strong defensively – tough and with a lot of talent. They a great team, with seven European Cups.”

Barcelona also face the second leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final with Real Madrid at the end of the month, and the 33-year-old is frustrated they were unable to come away from Santiago Bernabeu with more than a draw.

“Looking at the first leg, it’s obvious that we should have scored one or two more goals,” he said. “Against Real Madrid, if you don’t kill off the game, they end up coming back.

“We’ve got 90 minutes at home and we hope to build on the 1-1 draw in the Santiago Bernabeu.”

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