Barcelona coach Xavi has faced the press to discuss his team’s Europa League play-off second leg against Napoli on Thursday.
Xavi talked about the game, the prospect of playing at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, Barca’s youth and Ousmane Dembele.
Here are the best bits:
Xavi on Barca’s approach
We will try and dominate the match, keep on the ball which will be difficult because Napoli will be harder at home. It’ll be a very high intensity match with a fast pace. I think it will be a footballing war until we get hold of the ball. We will go out and try to win it. We’ll be brave, try to keep the ball, press high, we know the fans can be intense as well. We have to go out and play here, play our style, be strong in attack and keep working the way we’ve been doing recently with the team. Now more than ever, tomorrow is our biggest test.
Xavi on what he expects from Napoli
They will know how to put pressure on us. We’ll see. We want to dominate the match in their half. It won’t be easy, they are a strong team, a very physical team. It’ll be a battle of who gets the ball, who has more territory. It’ll be complicated, but it’s a good test to show we can play against a strong team.
Xavi on if it feels like a final
This is the next match, I’ve said it a lot. Every match we play lately is like a final. At home, I thought we could have won. Now we have to play here. It’ll be difficult, we are motivated, we are keen to show we can compete. We are on the right path, we are making progress, this is the path to be on.
Xavi on playing at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona
This is extra-motivation. It’s an honor to play at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona. He’s a player who inspired so many. We still keep watching videos of him and keep getting excited. If Messi hadn’t appeared we’d be talking about the best player of all time, he was certainly the best of his era.
Xavi on losing against Napoli
It would be a big disappointment. We have a lot of hope for this competition. We want to show we can compete in Europe especially against a team like Napoli. I think we did really well in the first leg. The draw wasn’t enough. We will try and be competitive, try to dominate the game and the possession. We’re in a good moment and if we play at that level we have a good chance of going through. It will be difficult. We expect a very tough match.
Xavi on youth
We count a lot on our youth categories. It’s part of our identity. We won very important things with players from La Masia. For Barca it’s very important. Players like Gavi, Nico and even Araujo, who came a bit later, and then Busquets, Pique - players who can make a difference in the first team and that’s fantastic.
Xavi on Barca’s away form in Europe
I can’t really give my opinion on seasons when I wasn’t here. It’s not fair. I think what is true is that we’ve tried to bring back our game style. We’ve always had a clear style. These are things we’ve lost a little bit and we’re trying to get it back. Tomorrow we’ll see where we are. Whether we still have a longer way to go to compete in Europe. We’re in the Europa League but we’re facing a Champions League opposition in Napoli. So it’s a good chance for us to see where we’re at.
Xavi on if Dembele will stay
We’ll see. His contract expires in June. It’s something between him and the club. I think he’s happy, he’s been a great professional. I’m very happy with him. Even when he wasn’t called up. We have no problems with Ousmane. I’ve heard everything: that he’s not been professional, doesn’t look after himself but I can tell you the complete opposite. He’s been taking care of himself, is a great professional, he trains well, he’s positive with the group and we decided, and it’s not just my opinion, we can play him. If he hadn’t been so professional we might have decided something else. He’s been an example to the team and that’s what carries weight. We’ll see at the end of the season. For me he’s an important player. He’s a player I like.