Competition Focus

Xavi hits back at Barcelona critics after Champions League progress: ‘Who’s laughing now?’

Barcelona head coach Xavi responded to critics by asking, “Who’s laughing now” after his side progressed past Napoli in the Champions League last 16.

The Catalan side progressed in a Champions League knockout match for the first time since 2020, also against Napoli at the same stage of the competition.

Barcelona have suffered a series of painful European exits since, losing that year’s quarter-final 8-2 in a one-legged tie against Bayern Munich, before a 5-2 aggregate loss to Paris Saint-Germain at the last-16 stage in 2021 and successive group-stage exits in 2022 and 2023.

Fermin Lopez, Joao Cancelo and Robert Lewandowski were all on target as Barcelona won the second leg 3-1 after last month’s 1-1 draw in Naples to seal their progress.

“We have received unfair criticism,” Xavi said after the match. “There has been too much pressure on the players like ultimatums, life or death.

“It was said that we were the joke of the Champions League — who is laughing now?

“I tried to take the pressure off the players, to tell them to calm down and that nobody was dying today.

“This was one of my best moments as a coach. I am really happy and proud. All the players, young and old, have taken an important step forward, this is an important day for Barcelona.”

The quarter-final draw for the Champions League takes place on March 15.



Barcelona’s night of La Masia magic as Cubarsi leads Champions League progress

(Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

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