Barca's Xavi: La Liga better than Premier League
Barcelona midfielder Xavi says the Primera Liga is better than England's Premier League and hopes his side can show it by going all the way in this season's Champions League.
Barca were joined in the semi-finals by three English sides last season, only to be knocked out by eventual champions Manchester United over two legs and this time, three of the last four teams are the same. Like United and Chelsea, Barca have progressed to the semi-final stage once again, while Arsenal are the other side still left in the competition.
The Catalans beat Arsene Wenger's side in the final in 2006 to claim their last major trophy and could set up a repeat performance this time around. Indeed, to win the Champions league for only the third time in their history, Barcelona must overcome two English sides, starting with Chelsea.
Pep Guardiola's side meet the Londoners in the first leg on Tuesday and Xavi hopes his side can show that Spain's top flight is stronger than England's.
''There's not much between the two leagues but I think our league is stronger - it is better technically and there is more tactical order,'' he said on Monday. ''Maybe the Premier League wins in terms of intensity and rhythm.''
''And it's true that there are three English teams in the semi-finals, but we are not here by coincidence.''
Xavi, who began his career at the Catalan club playing alongside Guardiola, had just returned from a bad injury the last time Barcelona won the Champions League and watched on from the bench.
And despite featuring earlier on in the tournament that year, the Spain midfielder admits he is desperate to be involved in a Barca triumph this time around.
''I felt part of that win, but as a professional you want to be out there as a protagonist.
''It's a thorn in my side and I'm desperate for us to get there again so I can be part of it,'' he said.
Xavi believes his team are in better shape than this time last year.
''We are pressurising up front again, we are better tactically, we play with more intensity and more rhythm - and physically we are also better,'' he said.
But the midfielder, who has played a record 107 European games for Barcelona, believes the series will be decided at Stamford Bridge in two weeks.
''Whatever happens, it will be decided at Stamford Bridge... it's very difficult for a tie like this to be decided in the first match,'' he said.
He added: ''Essien is one of the best players in the world in his position - he's so good at breaking up play. Terry is one of the best defenders out there, he's an admirable footballer. Carvalho and Cole are notable absences, though, so let's hope they miss them.''
Had Cole been available, the left-back would have lined up against right winger Lionel Messi. Jose Bosingwa will now have that unenviable task, but Xavi believes the Argentina forward could be the key player in this tie.
''It's fantastic to have him in our squad and he could be the key man in this series.
''If we win titles and have success collectively, it will be easier for him to win awards like the FIFA World Player or the Golden Ball - he deserves them,'' he said.