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Xavi: “Psychologically, Real Madid have an advantage”

After a friendly chat with Ancelotti, Barcelona coach Xavi Hernández looked ahead to Sunday’s Spanish Super Cup final against Real Madrid.

RIAD (ARABIA SAUDÍ), 11/01/2023.- El entrenador del FC Barcelona, Xavi Hernández, asiste a una rueda de prensa este miércoles en Riad, Arabia Saudí, en la víspera del encuentro de semifinales de la Supercopa de España ante el Real Betis en el Estadio Internacional Rey Fahd. EFE/ Juan Carlos Cárdenas
Juan Carlos CárdenasEFE

Xavi Hernández and Carlo Ancelotti spent a few minutes chewing the fat on the eve of Sunday’s Spanish Super Cup final, a ‘SúperClásico’ which will be staged, like last year’s, in Saudi Arabia. Afterwards, Xavi was the first of the two coaches to preview the match with the media.

How do you view Real Madrid?

As always, very strong physically, tactically. Very strong moving the ball forward. They are a great rival - the strongest rival in LaLiga, thy are the reigning European champions... The Madrid we all know. They also have a competitive gene in finals which makes them special. And we have to match that. We are motivated, excited. Winning the trophy would mean a lot to us, and more for the rival. Whatever happens tomorrow, we will have to continue. But with the title in the bag, it would give us confidence.

The mindset is also important. Is Barça under more pressure to win?

The psychological aspect is key and they have a slight advantage in that and have more experience. But our hunger will give us the strength we need. It’s been a long time since we won a trophy and we have to be hungry as I told the players against Betis. The younger players have to show hunger and the older players, ability and experience. For me, that hunger to win trophies is a point in our favour.

Barça look fine for the first few minutes of a game then seem to spiral out of control...

There are always things that concern me. There is never perfection in how you play. We have to try to minimize mistakes. But there is always a rival in front who will complicate things. We need to press during the whole game.

Are you for or against semi-automated offside technology?

There are a couple of things. As with VAR, you lose a little bit of the football, the celebration… But on the other hand, it is a fairer way of dealing with offside and I like justice. Apart from moves which cannot be explained, everything else is quite straightforward - like offside. But I like the justice that VAR brings to the game.

Madrid have had an extra day to rest. Should both teams have the same amount of time to rest?

Yes. That’s something that could be addressed for next year’s tournament. It would be a fairer way, but that’s not meant as an excuse. We have all of our players available and tomorrow is a final. Even if you are slightly injured, you have to be ready. When you start playing football as a kid, it’s for moments like this - to play finals against Real Madrid. We are not afraid of them, we are not anxious. We are confronting a golden opportunity to win a trophy which would mean a lot at this stage of the season. So we’ll be going all out to win the Super Cup.

What would winning a trophy as a coach mean to you?

As I’ve said in the past, it’s not about me. It’s about Barça. Barça is more important than anyone. I am the coach and the person who is responsible, and I will try to plan the game as best as I can. But tomorrow is an opportunity for us. And with it being against Madrid, makes us even more up for it.

How will you motivate your players?

I would love to be in their position, I’d change places with any of them - even just to be on the bench. That’s what we play for - for the people, to feel good, to feel important. I am really motivated for tomorrow’s game. As a coach, you suffer more which is a shame. I was angry the other day because the players didn’t think they should be drawing 2-2 and I don’t know if they were aware that they were on the brink of being in a final.

Will the 3-1 league defeat in October be on your minds?

This is different. Both teams are going into this game in a different moment. We’ll try to show our personality, our style of play and defend as best as we can.

You play in several Super Cup finals… Do you remember any in particular?

We have the obligation to win this trophy. We are Barça and we are here to win it.

Ancelotti has not lost a one-off final since 2010.

That gives me hope… (laughs). But I am really up for this, I couldn’t be more motivated. We have struggled to get this far and if Ancelotti hasn’t lost a final since 2010, that motivates me even more.

Have to asked for Carrasco if Memphis leaves?

I have said that I don’t want anyone to leave. If someone wants to leave and puts in a request, we would need to find a replacement to cover that vacancy in the squad.