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EL CLÁSICO

Xavi discusses Barcelona squad and Real Madrid threats ahead of El Clásico

Xavi gave his thoughts ahead of Saturday’s Clásico against rivals Real Madrid.

Update:
Barcelona's Spanish coach Xavi addresses a press conference in Barcelona on October 27, 2023, on the eve of the Spanish league football match against Real Madrid. (Photo by Josep LAGO / AFP)
JOSEP LAGOAFP

Barcelona head coach Xavi Hernández knows all about El Clásico. The former midfield maestro faced Real Madrid throughout his glittering playing career and was involved in some of the greatest battles LaLiga has ever seen.

Ahead of the Blaugrana’s home fixture against their great rivals on Saturday, the 43-year-old discussed several subjects in his pre-match press conference on Friday.

Watch a live stream of El Clásico on fuboTV, which offers a free trial

How is the team going into a match as decisive as El Clásico?

For us it’s very important, everyone wants to play, and everyone wants to test themselves. We are very excited.

What’s the latest on the injured players?

I was surprised to see players we had almost ruled out back in training. Everyone wants to be involved. The feeling in the camp is very positive.

Could Lewandowski start?

He’s fine. He’s been training, but I won’t give anything away here. I’m not going to give any clues.

And Pedri?

We don’t want to force anyone, we want to minimise risks. We’ll see tomorrow.

Barcelona players training on Friday.
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Barcelona players training on Friday. Quique GarcíaEFE

Is it too risky to play players who have been out of action for so long?

Those who are fit will play. We won’t be able to field anyone who isn’t. It’s a game where you have to be at 100 per cent. It would be a mistake to do the opposite.

What do you think about referee Gil Manzano?

The less we talk about him, the better.

How important will Oriol Romeu be?

Very. You have to take into account how Madrid play with their transitions, which are their strong point.

Did you know that Joāo Félix has never scored against Madrid?

I didn’t know that, but tomorrow would be a good time. We ask a lot of Joāo.

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What are you expecting from Madrid?

Madrid have changed their system with the arrival of Bellingham. We have to keep an eye on Rodrygo and Vinícius and minimise their strengths.

How do you remember the eve of your first Clásico?

There are more nerves, more tension than in a normal match. You have to control yourself but it’s hard. You have to keep a cool head.

Is the Clásico the biggest rivalry in the world?

I don’t know, it’s great. In Argentina, they will say River-Boca and in Seville Betis-Sevilla. But it’s the biggest game at club level, for sure.

Have you spoken to Gavi about keeping a cool head?

It’s not necessary, he has matured a lot. He doesn’t get sent off as much. His passion is necessary and he does very well for the team.

Who is more decisive Joāo Félix or Bellingham?

Both of them for each of their teams. They are great players and have imagination and technique.

Will the fans play a key role?

Of course, they won’t let us down. We’ll try to make them enjoy it.