Barcelona qualified on Tuesday night for the round of 16 of the Champions League. For the Catalans, it was the first time since the 2020/21 season and the first time since Lionel Messi left the club.

Xavi remains sober despite qualification at Barcelona: 'I am not exonerated'

Coach Xavi Hernández saw his team show character in the Olympic stadium in Barcelona by overcoming a 0-1 deficit, led by two Portuguese players. Both João Cancelo and João Felix scored against their compatriots.

"It was a final and we won it," says Cancelo, who, playing as a left-back, equalized the score, in a conversation with El País. "Barcelona is where it deserves to be. When the results are not coming, the confidence is not the same. But we have earned this qualification ourselves and we are already thinking about Atlético," says the Manchester City loanee, looking forward to the upcoming Sunday clash with Diego Simeone's team.

Barcelona's participation in the Europa League in recent seasons cast a sort of curse over the club, something Xavi is also aware of. "It's a step forward for the entire club. We have been in the Europa League for two years. This qualification gives morale and confidence," says the coach to Marca. "Now we want to finish first in the group. The team has grown, that's clear. I am happy, but I have not been in prison. I am not exonerated."

"We had to reach the round of 16 of the Champions League after two years in the Europa League. Hopefully, this will be a turning point. I hope that we have found some consistency through this. Not just in the result, but also in our play."