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Xavi’s assistant explains decision to start Ilias Akhomach against Espanyol

The 17-year-old makes his first-team debut at the Camp Nou

FC Barcelona v RCD Espanyol - La Liga Santander Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Xavi raised a few eyebrows with his first starting XI for Barcelona after including 17-year-old Ilias Akhomach in his team to face Espanyol.

It’s a senior debut for the highly-rated youngster who joins fellow teens Gavi and Nico Gonzalez in the team for the derby.

Oscar Hernandez, Xavi’s assistant and brother, was asked about the inclusion of Ilias before kick-off and explained to Barca TV why he had been handed the chance to impress.

“He’s a winger who runs, he can beat a man one on one, he tries things, makes the pitch wide,” he said. “In our way of playing we need that. He deserves the chance.”

Xavi saw Ilias score twice for Barca B when he arrived back in the city after being announced as the club’s new permanent coach two weeks ago.

The teenager has since been called up to train with the first team and has obviously done enough to impress his new boss on the training ground.

Ilias is one of eight La Masia graduates in the starting XI (along with Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba, Oscar Mingueza, Eric García, Nico Gonzalez, and Gavi) and will wear the No. 37 shirt.