Barcelona will face Manchester United – and their old nemesis Cristiano Ronaldo – in a heavyweight Europa League tussle in February 2023.
Xavi said Barcelona had been handed the toughest possible draw after they were paired with Manchester United in the Europa League’s knockout round play-offs.
Barca will be competing in the Europa League after the turn of the year as a result of failing to progress from a Champions League group containing Bayern Munich and Inter.
The Blaugrana have now suffered back-to-back Champions League group stage exits for only the second time, also under Louis van Gaal in the 1997-98 and 1998-99 campaigns.
Barca were beaten by eventual winners Eintracht Frankfurt in last term’s Europa League round of 16 and Xavi said they were unlucky again after Monday’s draw.
“We will have to compete, we will go to Manchester against a really tough opponent,” Xavi said ahead of Tuesday’s trip to Osasuna in LaLiga.
“It is a historic rival that has grown a lot with the arrival of Erik ten Hag, with great individual players. We got the toughest opponent in the Europa League again.”
“There is always an opponent who also has an obligation to win, like us. To compete, we have to analyze Manchester. We will try, this club has never won the Europa League.”
“It’s a huge challenge for us, our players will probably be more motivated against a strong team.”
In Barca’s next European game, he will be reunited with his old nemesis Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored 20 goals in 34 games against the Blaugrana, netting against them in LaLiga (nine), Champions League (two), Copa del Rey (five). and the Supercopa de Espana (four).
Xavi dismissed suggestions that the United striker is on the decline despite his struggles this season, adding: “I think he’s a great player who marked an era and can still make a difference.
“I like to win, I don’t like to lose, whoever is in front of me. I want to win and be competitive.”
Barca have won their last four matches against United, including the 2009 and 2011 Champions League finals, having won just one of the two sides’ previous eight matches in European competition (D4 L3).