What did Barcelona coach Xavi say in his Valencia pre-match press conference?
LaLiga leaders Barça have the chance to go 10 points clear of Real Madrid if they defeat Valencia at Camp Nou.
They may be out of Europe but Xavi Hernández’s Barcelona have been the kings of domestic soccer in Spain this season...so far. Despite a below-par performance at Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, the Catalans edged out rivals Real Madrid in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final and now have the chance to go 10 points clear at the top of LaLiga by beating Valencia (kick-off at 10:15 a.m. ET) before the European champions face Real Betis (3:00 p.m. ET).
Xavi spoke to the press ahead of the game against Ruben Baraja’s side and was asked about his side’s record-breaking performance in Madrid amongst a host of other topics.
Do you need to put the Copa del Rey to one side and focus on LaLiga against opponents that are in the bottom half of the table?
“I expect us to dominate the game, but they defend well under Baraja. They play with intensity and solidity. We’ll have to be good on the ball and improve in attack. We have to change our mindset because we know that they really need to turn things around quickly and have a lot at stake”.
Is it important to be calm?
“Barça is like an ocean liner, there’s always a lot of noise around it. It’s the moment of truth. There’s a lot at stake for us”.
Do you feel that your victory has been belittled somewhat?
“I haven’t read anything, but a really tough opponents like Real Madrid kept us at bay. We wanted to defend with the ball and not just have 35% possession, but I think we were extraordinarily good without the ball. We played the perfect game in the final of the Spanish Super Cup, but they know how to play and they’re really good”.
You’re banned from the touchline. Where will you watch the game?
“I hope it won’t affect me, I don’t think it will change anything in terms of preparation. I’ll be in a box, which is where you get the best view of the game”.
Are you worried about the team’s inability to make the most of free-kicks?
“We practice them every day and Ansu, Raphinha and Marcos scored great goals today. But we don’t get many of them, we have to try to get more. A free-kick goal will come soon”.
Don’t you miss Koundé as a centre-back?
“He played a great game and he prefers to play at centre-back. He’s been a superb signing, but sometimes you have to adapt”.
Can you understand why the possession debate is taking over from the style debate?
“That’s why Barcelona is undoubtedly the most difficult club to manage in the world. If we win 1-0 at the Bernabéu, our style of play is discussed, if it had been the other way round, there would be a national celebration. Now you understand me, don’t you? When I said that a year ago, I got pelters for it. It’s absurd to think that we went out to defend. The way Real Madrid played forced us to do it, that’s as simple as understanding soccer. It wasn’t our plan. It’s not enough just to win here, you have to convince people. I’m happy to have won in Madrid, but I was much happier after the Super Cup final”.
Is Busquets’ contract renewal close?
“To start with, I’m very happy that Sergi Roberto is staying. I know that everything is criticised here, but it’s very important. It’s great news that Sergi can continue for another year, he’s an extraordinary player. As for Busi, hopefully everything will be sorted out, but it’s his personal decision”.
Is it a good thing to have a free midweek coming up?
“Yes, but if it’s a free midweek it’s because we’re out of Europe. We’d like to still be in”.
Does your routine change because of the schedule?
“We will eat at the stadium and that’s it. If we play at 21.00, we have an afternoon snack. It doesn’t change much”.
How do you explain winning all six games you’ve played without Lewandowski?
“And without Pedri, Andreas (Christensen) and Dembélé. It shows that losing hurts us. We are winners”.
Are there players who at risk of burning out?
“We work with data on that and there are players who we can see who are at risk and we have to act accordingly. But I don’t think that’ll be a factor tomorrow. Tomorrow’s game is a cup final and we have to put pressure on Madrid”.
Was the defeat to Almeria a lesson for you?
“We have to learn from it. We can go 10 points clear before Madrid play. We can’t slip up again”.
Is it easier to defend in a low block than to attack against a low block?
“No, what you need is talent and to be brave. I believe in being proactive rather than reactive, but Madrid stifled us. We lacked patience, we didn’t support one another enough and other things that we have analysed so that they don’t happen again”.
Was is the latest news coming out of the treatment room?
“Christensen will be back tomorrow. Lewandowski is improving and we still need to wait and see with Dembélé and Pedri”.
Why do you prefer Marcos (Alonso) to Eric (García)?
“He’s performing superbly well and has a great personality. He’s been a great signing, very reliable. He brings a lot to the team”.
Is the defence the strongest part of the team?
“The defence starts with Lewandowski and the first to attack is Ter Stegen. We play as a unit”.
How do you approach facing a coach like Baraja who has no set way of playing?
“He’s a good friend of mine and I think Valencia have done the right thing in getting him. We have only analysed the two games he’s been in charge of. They have improved a lot”.
Will Estanis Pedrola be involved?
“He is an out-and-out winger who can play on both sides. He could play some part”.
Are you happy with Kessié's performances?
“I’m very happy with him. He creates chances and rarely loses the ball. He’s been patient and he’s gaining confidence”.
Do you think the Copa del Rey result will influence both teams (Barça and Madrid)?
“We have a tough match before Madrid play, but we are only focused on ourselves”.
What do you think of Ansu Fati’s recent form?
“He seems motivated and in a good place. He will be an important player”.
Do you prefer to play before Madrid do or after?
“I prefer to win. Last week they played first and drew and then we lost”.