Xavi: Barca must move on from Eto'o era

BARCELONA - Barcelona have to accept coach Pep Guardiola's decision to offload striker Samuel Eto'o to Inter Milan but it will still be strange to line up against him in the Champions League on Wednesday, midfielder Xavi said.

Barca begin the defence of their European title against Group F rivals Inter at the San Siro and Xavi said the swap deal in which Eto'o moved to Milan and Zlatan Ibrahimovic joined Barca gave the match added spice.

"It'll be an odd feeling after Eto'o spent so much time playing with us here," Xavi, one of Barca's club captains, told Reuters in an interview on Monday.

"It was a personal decision of the coach's and we can't comment," he added.

"He made it clear that it was his sensation, his feeling and that he wanted a change, nothing more. I'll give him (Eto'o) a hug and wish him all the best but only for after the match."

Inter coach Jose Mourinho's stint as an assistant at Barca under Dutchman Louis van Gaal also gave the match an extra edge, according to Xavi.

"Mourinho and Guardiola are both very much soccer men - they are absolutely nuts about football and two highly enthusiastic people with a lot of character," he said.

"The difference is that Mourinho tends more toward defensive work and relies on counter-attack, whereas Pep is a football romantic.

"He likes to play well and win. His philosophy is to go on the attack, dominate and press high up."

Barca's main Champions League rivals this season would probably be the usual suspects, said Xavi, who was voted most valuable midfielder in last year's competition.

"Chelsea are very strong and haven't conceded a point yet in the Premier League," added the 29-year-old.

"Manchester lost Cristiano Ronaldo but I expect they'll be there or thereabouts. And Inter are very strong with their new signings on top of the team they already had and Mourinho.

"Real Madrid, Barcelona, Liverpool - there are a lot of extremely strong sides."

May's final is at Real's Bernabeu home and Xavi said this was an extra incentive for the Barca players.

"Imagine it," he said. "It's a bit early to talk about now but nonetheless the fact that's it's in the Bernabeu adds a little bit more spice for all the Barcelona fans and all the Barca players."