BARCELONA (Reuters) – Barcelona boss Xavi Hernandez said on Monday he is relishing the challenge of facing Benfica in the Champions League as they look to avenge their defeat by the Portuguese side in Lisbon earlier in the campaign.

A win on Tuesday will ensure Barcelona reach the last 16 of Europe’s elite club competition with a match in hand, despite a difficult start to the campaign following 3-0 defeats by both Bayern Munich and Benfica.

“I see an opportunity, no pressure. Soccer always give you a rematch. We’re Barca and we’ll go for it. I love challenges like this,” Xavi, who guided Barca to a 1-0 LaLiga win over Espanyol in his first game in charge of them on Saturday, told reporters.

“Talking is easy, we need to show it on the pitch. Against Espanyol we were better. Barca aren’t in a situation to show off but we have reasons to be optimistic.

“If we win, we’ll qualify. We need to be brave and try.”

Former Barca midfielder Xavi, who enjoyed a trophy-laden spell with the team, hailed fans for showing up in good numbers at Camp Nou on Saturday and issued another rallying cry for support against Benfica.

Attendance figures at Camp Nou have been poor amid a tough start to the campaign in which Dutchman Ronald Koeman was sacked as manager before Xavi’s appointment this month.

“What I saw on Saturday in Camp Nou I’ve never seen in my life,” Xavi said. “It was spectacular. On Tuesday we need our fans again. They’re part of us. The atmosphere in Barca must give people goosebumps.”

Benfica boss Jorge Jesus said his team was looking forward to playing at Camp Nou.

“The atmosphere in their stadium is great for them but it’s also good for us… great players like to play in a beautiful stadium full of supporters,” Jesus said.

(Reporting by Fernando Kallas; Editing by Shrivathsa Sridhar)



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