Barcelona limped to a goalless draw at home to Benfica in Xavi’s first Champions League match as head coach, meaning the team now needs to win away at Bayern Munich to guarantee progress through to the knockout stages.
Given the contrasting form of both sides – Bayern has won all five its group stage games so far, including a 3-0 Camp Nou hammering of Barça – that result seems unlikely, but it’s not all doom and gloom for the Catalan club.
Yusuf Demir’s standout individual performance in the first half was one exceedingly bright spot on an otherwise frustrating evening, with the 18-year-old providing an exciting glimpse of what his future may hold.
Demir, already a senior Austrian international, joined the Blaugrana on loan from Rapid Vienna in the summer with an option to make the move permanent for a reported €10 million ($11.25M).
The forward has only sparingly been given playing time in recent weeks, clocking just 34 minutes of first team football since September prior to starting against Benfica.
However, Barça fans may be hoping that Tuesday’s performance may be a sign of things to come as Xavi starts to make his mark on the squad and its style.
Demir played wide on the right against Benfica, hugging the touchline for much of the first half and cutting inside onto his favored left foot.
He produced one Lionel Messi-esque effort in the 43rd minute, curling a wonderful looping effort over Benfica goalkeeper Odysseas Vlachodimos, but his shot hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced away.
Demir’s impact dipped in the second half, leading Xavi to replace the youngster after 66 minutes with Ousmane Dembele, whose introduction improved Barcelona’s performance significantly.
Despite the disappointing result, Xavi insisted that he had seen enough to convince him that Barça “can compete with anyone.”
“We can go to Munich and win,” he told reporters after the game.