FC Barcelona MF Xavi: Clasico War With Real Madrid Exhausts Both Teams and How to Compete with Bayern Munich

Alex Grimm

In an interview with the Catalan paper Sport, Xavi said the constant battle between Barcelona and Real Madrid sapped both teams of energy to progress in the Champions League.

"The Barca-Madrid war during the season wears both of us down a lot," Xavi Hernandez said. "In Germany, it's not the same, they do not have the same historical intensity."

For two years running, Barcelona and Real Madrid have gotten to the Champions League semifinals and lost. "It's not normal. This year, the Spanish Cup semifinals wore both of us down. They were very difficult."

Barcelona and Madrid both fell to German opposition this year. Xavi figures that the key difference between Barca and Bayern Munich was fitness. "If we go on like this, it's inevitable that we get to April or May worse than them."

His solution? "The Copa del Rey should be single game elimination." The Copa currently works on a two-legged, home-and-away format.

"If the federation wants to see Spanish teams in the Champions League final more often, they have to help. It would leave us fresher because we would save four or five games, and in addition, it would be more entertaining because big teams would play for it all away from home."

Would Jose Mourinho finally leaving Spain help both teams? The Clasico has never seemed as intense - or frequent - as when Mourinho came to town. Six or seven Clasicos seemed a yearly occurrence, each one full of spite and tension. But at least next season that will change. With Real Madrid missing out on the Copa and La Liga, they will not play a two-legged Spanish Supercup. The maximum number of Clasicos for next season is six.

"I don't want people to think I always attack Mourinho because it's not my intention," Xavi said, "but it's evident that I don't like his brand of football."

"I've hallucinated about the 'Galactico' Real Madrid. I was furious seeing them play because they had an idea and a concept. They were incredible, they dominated all aspects of play. The 'Quinta del Buitre' Madrid, another great team. But Mourinho's Madrid has not left a comparable legacy."

Xavi seemed annoyed at Madrid's rough style of play under Mourinho, arguing that Barca have never given out a kicking even when Madrid were winning. Perhaps next year, there would be some respite.

Some would say better squad rotation would help Barca. But Xavi was not totally sold on it. "For three or four years I've heard this about playing less of Barca's matches. It's clear to me it's the way life is, I'm 33 and have played 15 seasons with a high demand. I feel good and want to keep going for a few more years."

He also seemed unconcerned about people who claim it's the end of an era for Barcelona. "I laugh every time I hear that. For years, I've heard about that, and it seems it's not coming, unfortunately for some. They'll have to wait. It's like if I said, ;you're going to die, you're going to die,' year after year. And at the end, after forty or fifty years, I'd finally be right. Then I would get cocky and say 'See? I was right.' What's clear is that all those who talk about the end of an era are people who don't like Barcelona. For that reason we don't pay attention to them. We keep doing our thing, enjoying our era."

However, constant matches with no summer off have to be a fitness concern. Most Barca players have done double duty for years, playing the summers with the Spanish national team as they won Euro 2008, World Cup 2010, and Euro 2012 - not to mention the Confederations Cup and Olympic Games in between.

It's happening again this year, too, as Spain play the Confederations Cup with several Barcelona players, while Germany have not qualified. Perhaps the coaching staff should look into more rotation, even if the player swears he is fit.

With that in mind, perhaps it's not just the Copa that the Spanish FA should look at. They could start with making the Supercup just one game, maybe at a neutral venue. It's currently two, home and away. That's one more game than German teams play.

The Bundesliga has less teams, which is a savings of four games than La Liga. Add to that that the German Cup is single-game elimination, and that means Bayern played two less games despite reaching the final.

Assuming both Barcelona and Bayern Munich played the most games they could across these three national competitions, Barca would always play eight more games.

Of course, that doesn't explain everything. It's up to debate how much of a difference playing an equal amount of games would have ever made. But we will see some equalization on that front next season, as Bayern will have to play the European Supercup and then deal with a trip to win the Club World Cup in Morocco.

It's "only" three more games, and the CWC venue will at least be closer than it has been before. Morocco is "only" about 3,000 km away from Germany.

The places where it has been held most recently, the United Arab Emirates and Japan, would be farther. The UAE, maybe 7,000 km, and Japan around 11,000 km.

Still, it will be a pretty long trip and it will be interesting to see if Pep Guardiola's men can keep up their level of fitness with the added stress of the trip. Both times Guardiola led Barca to a CWC victory, they could not hold onto the Champions League trophy.

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