Every word of Xavi’s press conference ahead of the Champions League group game against Antwerp
Xavi spoke to the press in advance of the Champions League debut against Antwerp: “We should not become obsessed with the Champions League”
The Champions League returns and Barcelona welcome Antwerp to the Olímpic Lluís Companys - the first time both clubs have met in European competition. The Catalans will be attempting to make an improvement on their last two campaigns in which they failed to make it past the group stage. Coach Xavi spoke about the team’s ambitions and says Barça will be taking one step at a time.
New edition of the Champions League: “We are very excited to be starting this new competition. It’s the moment for us to take a step forward in this competition. It is the perfect scenario, we’re in a good moment of form, we’re playing well... "
Turn the page on previous editions: “I think it is important to realize that this is the highest club competition at European level, but we should not get obsessed with the Champions League either. We have to maintain our personality. Taking it step by step is the process. The goal in the Champions League is to get through the group, then we’ll see.”
What message have you given your players?
We’re hopeful of taking another step forward in this year’s tournament. Today we have been analyzing the rival. The players are motivated, but we cannot allow ourselves to overthink things. We have to translate what we did on Saturday to this competition. In my first season, we were unable to compete. Last season we were able to compete. This season we have to compete and gain results. But we have to be ourselves. Last season we played well, but the results didn’t follow. I think we have a squad that can compete in Europe, but we have to show it. We need to compete and fight. The plan is to get to the knockout stage.
What is the minimum objective?
The plan is to get to the knockout stage, then we’ll see.
What memories do you have of [Antwerp coach] Mark van Bommel?
I have great memories of Van Bommel - as a team mate and as a rival. As a player, he was physically strong and a goal scorer. As well as that, he was a good team mate and a good friend. Antwerp are a physically strong side who use the wings well and have [Vincent] Janssen up front as well. They are a very good team and that’s why they’re Belgian champions.
In LaLiga, Barça’s win rate is over 50% but that percentage drops in the Champions League. Do you feel the need to prove something in Europe?
Yes, always. I have to prove myself in every game. All of us are under tremendous pressure, but that’s a nice position to be in. I enjoy challenges. I even set myself challenges as a coach. I have to transmit a positive message so that the players give everything they’ve got.
How do you man manage so many players?
At the end of the day, I’m fortunate to have such a problem. The other day, all of the striker scored. As I’ve said many times, the ones who start games are just as important as the ones who end them.
Have you been surprised by how much Ferran has come on?
He needed a good pre-season. He told me to have faith in him and he would show what he can do. I’m not surprised by his performances because I’ve seen him do it in training. He’s always been a hard worker, he sets an example. And now, things have started turning out for him.
We could have pushed his return, but we didn’t think it was worth it.
What have you said to the players?
You can see in their faces that they are excited to be in the competition. They’re fired up and we are going to try and make sure that they enjoy it. We’ll need the public’s support too.
How do you see the team at this moment? Do you believe?
I always believe. I have to be positive. I always look at the good side. I’m motivated, and hopeful.
Has Barça lost prestige?
No. When I visited Bayern’s ground and Inter’s, they showed us respect. We need to win the trophy again. We haven’t won it since 2015.
Have you made many tactical changes since the two Joãos joined?
We continue to play in the same way if you look closely.
Have you been surprised by João’s attitude?
If a player doesn’t have attitude, he can’t be in the team. After that, there is a model of play to follow. Without attitude, you can’t be at Barça. João Félix’s attitude is the same as everyone elses’. If it wasn’t, he would be here.
What demands has the club placed on you, improve or win?
Both. It’s obvious that we have to improve. The goal is to get the Round of 16, play well and then we’ll see, once we are among the best teams. Hopefully we can show our best side this time. If we show the same level we showed at the weekend then we should advance. This is an extremely demanding competition.
¿De qué entrenadores aprendió más?
In terms of motivation, Luis [Aragonás].