Barcelona coach Xavi has faced the press ahead of Sunday’s La Liga clash with Atletico Madrid at the Camp Nou.
The manager faced a wide range of questions ahead of the game and spoke about several of his players as well as Atletico stars Antoine Griezmann and Yannick Carrasco.
Here are the best bits:
Xavi on Atletico Madrid
Tomorrow will be a complicated match, an important match. Atletico is one of the most in-form teams in the league. They are playing really good football. They are creating a lot of chances, playing at a really high level. We are going to face a really high level opposition in really amazing form. It’s going to be a great match.
Xavi on the importance of the match
We need to get our identity back. It’s a match that extra motivates everyone. It’s the perfect moment to come back. Our level has dropped a little bit. We’ve had time to train and it’s a key match.
Xavi on Lamine Yamal
Everyone who has been called up has the option of participating. He can help us, he has good talent, he is young, has a lot of personality. One on one, he’s strong, he’s a player that can mark an era and be really important for the club. He’s not afraid, we’ve put him on the list, we’ve spoken to him, he’s ready. I think he can help us.
Xavi on what he wants from the run-in
The message is clear. To be recognisable by our game style, don’t lose the ball so much, bring back our identity, generate chances in attack, push the defensive line really high. There have been circumstances that have meant our level has dropped but now it’s time to push on.
Xavin on Yamal’s future
We will focus on the present, what we have ahead of us. He’s done really well. I’ve liked what I’ve seen and that’s why he’s been called up. The fact that his contract is ending is nothing to do with the call-up. He’s training well, has great footballing talent and can play well for the first team despite his age.
Xavi on the current Messi buzz
Right now I’m not thinking about this. My focus is on football, training well, and the week ahead. I don’t think about next year, or the signings, or the other things that happen. I’m going to give everything I can for Barca to play the best. I’m not focused on Leo or signings.
Xavi on comparing youngsters to Barca players
Pedri we’ve always compared to Andres. Lamine is different. He has things from different players. He has an innate talent. The youngsters are not afraid, that’s the difference from my generation, they have this way of just pushing on. Lamine has trained wonderfully so I think the best thing is to call him up. No fear, I don’t think there’s any comparison with anyone.
Xavi on Pedri, De Jong, and Dembele
He [Dembele] is just one step away. He’s not quite ready but he almost is. If it’s not Wednesday it will be Saturday. Everyone who is in the squad is 100%. We’ll see tomorrow who will play. Chrisensen is the same, he’s almost there. The good news is that we have recovered almost the entire squad, apart from Sergi Roberto.
Xavi on playing in the afternoon
They criticise me for everything. I’m not bothered. If I say the sun bothered me, then yeah. It doesn’t help us or the spectacle. If you want to ask, maybe you should ask why they don’t water their pitch. Ask the coach of Getafe. It was drier than normal. There is no rule for this. In all the other sports there is a rule about the pitch. Why not in football? The playing surface is fundamental to the game.
Xavi on De Jong
Frenkie is fundamental, I’ve said that a lot, in attack and defense. The dynamism he gives, and Pedri, they are fundamental to get our identity back. Frenkie espeically in the basics of the match. With Busi, with Pedri, we are definitely better.
Xavi on Lewandowski
He’s motivated, he’s trained really well, he’s always looks for answers to improve, for the team to improve. We are really happy with him. He’s not had the numbers of the first half of the season but will be scoring again, he’ll keep being important.
Xavi on Rafa Marquez and Julian Araujo
Rafa is doing spectacular work, we are in touch all the time, almost daily. He’s having a fantastic season. Julian is training a lot with us, he’s in the first-team dynamic, and at the end of the season we’ll decide what we’ll do with him - as we will for all the players.
Xavi on Pedri
Pedri is fundamental for the last pass. He gets on really well with Robert. It’s really good news for us that we get these players back. Pedri is a feeder of balls, he generates passes. His return is perfect for us.
Xavi on Griezmann
He’s a very important player for Atletico. He stands out from the rest of the team. His individuality is key. Griezmann is in an exceptional moment of form. He’s comfortable, happy, yes he’s someone we’ll need to take care of tomorrow.
Xavi on Carrasco
He’s a great player. The work he has to do on the left wing, he’s a player who can make differences. He’s very strong, he’s a player that can cause problems for us tomorrow if we don’t stop him.