MADRID: Xavi Hernandez believes that Barcelona are still favourites in their Champions League quarter-final against Paris Saint-Germain despite a number of key injuries in defence and the possibility that Lionel Messi could also miss the second-leg.
The first leg ended 2-2 in Paris last Tuesday thanks to Blaise Matuidi’s last-minute strike for the hosts but the biggest blow for Barca was the injuries suffered by Messi and Javier Mascherano.
Four-time world player of the year Messi still has a chance of returning for today’s clash at the Camp Nou but Mascherano’s knee injury will see him miss the majority of what remains of the season.
But captain Xavi said that two away goals and home advantage should still be enough to see Barca into their sixth consecutive Champions League semi-final.
“We have 90 minutes left at home and we will play in front of our fans, who showed the top level of devotion in the game against Milan,” said Xavi.
“The shame has been the injuries. We are going to see how Messi is. Mascherano it seems will miss four to six weeks and they are important absences. But we have a good result, we are favourites, playing at home and there are 90 minutes to play.”
‘Pressure off’ as Bayern eye semis: Robben
Meanwhile, Arjen Robben said that Bayern Munich’s recent Bundesliga title triumph has taken the pressure off as they look to qualify for their third Champions League semi-finals in four years against Juventus.
Bayern outclassed the Italian champions 2-0 in the first-leg in Munich last week and history is against the hosts, who have never overturned a 2-0 first-leg defeat in the competition.
“I think in general it’s not only been the away games, up till now we’ve had a very good season,” said Robben. “Of course, the pressure is off in the league now because we have won the title and now we can completely focus on our games in the Champions League.”
Juventus will be hoping for a different outcome and come into the game still smarting from a jibe aimed last week at their goal-keeper Gianluigi Buffon, who was labelled a ‘pensioner’ by honorary Bayern president Franz Beckenbauer after he failed to stop the Germans’ opener despite the ball being deflected.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 10th, 2013.