Barcelona coasted to victory in their opening Champions League game with a comfortable win over Royal Antwerp.
Xavi’s side were three goals ahead after just 23 minutes thanks to strikes from Joao Felix and Robert Lewandowski, plus an own goal from Jelle Bataille.
Gavi added a fourth before Felix got his second after the break to give Barca’s campaign the perfect start.
The La Liga champions were eliminated in the group stage of their past two Champions League campaigns.
Antwerp, who won the Belgian title last season to reach the Champions League for the first time, was unable to match the home side’s passing and finishing.
Barcelona has not won the Champions League since 2015 but here produced football reminiscent of those glory days, albeit against limited opponents.
The opening goal certainly reminded me of the times when Xavi roamed the Barca midfield with Mark van Bommel as his accompanying enforcer. For this game, they were instead in opposing dugouts – Van Bommel as Antwerp manager, Xavi in charge of Barca.
In 2023, it is Ilkay Gundogan who Barca looks to as their midfield creator. On 11 minutes, he exchanged passes with Lewandowski before sliding in Felix, the former Chelsea loanee firing home at the near post.
The lead was doubled eight minutes later following a superb raking ball by Frenkie de Jong to Felix in the area on the left. The Portuguese forward, on loan from Atletico Madrid, clipped in a cross for Lewandowski to volley home from six yards.
Antwerp were unfortunate to concede a third as their Champions League debut turned into a nightmare. Alejandro Balde’s cross clipped off right-back Bataille and spiraled agonizingly over goalkeeper Jean Butez and in off the far post.
Barca were passing the ball around their midfield at will and seemingly scoring when they wanted, Gavi smashing into the roof of the net after 54 minutes for his first Champions League goal.
The scoring was appropriately concluded by the electric Felix, although his second was all about the left-footed cross by Raphinha.
The former Leeds man cut back on the right wing before sending over an undefendable ball which Felix nodded home at the far post.