Barcelona manager Xavi Hernández spoke to the media on Tuesday to preview the second leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final tie against Real Madrid in what will be the fifth and final El Clásico of the season with a spot in the Cup title match on the line.
Here are some of the highlights from the coach’s answers:
On who the favorite is on Wednesday
Madrid are perfectly capable of winning, against any rival. Madrid are still favorites over us. They are used to comebacks and have experience in two-legged ties. We will compete, but we don’t feel like we have Madrid figured out. They haven’t lost a Cup tie in a while, they’re the reigning European champions. That’s why I call them favorites. The pressure is more on them than on us.
On how he wants Barça to play
Our goal is to play like we did in the Super Cup Final and the La Liga game at home. That’s the ideal match for us. I believe Madrid will be aggressive and will want to take the ball away from us. In the first Copa clash, they were superior to us in possession and control. And that is not what we want. We want to force them to play on their half, but we are facing a great team. I ask for personality from our players.
On Robert Lewandowski and Karim Benzema
It’s not easy to compare them. They are two of three best strikers in the world. They are similar. Maybe Benzema moves more on the pitch, associates more, and Lewandowski is the more physical player. They are very similar because they can make a difference. It was important for Robert to score on Saturday, for his confidence. He will be very motivated.
On the constant criticism of Gavi
People will say what they want to say about him. I don’t read anything and I listen to very little. Gavi is calm, he’s very mature for his age and competes like an experienced player despite being so young. He always wins duels! I want him to be himself, it’s what I always ask of him.
On whether the “Negreira Case” is talked about in the dressing room
Any matter off the pitch is not talked about in the dressing room. We are only talking about how Madrid plays. Not about UEFA, not about Negreira, not about Tebas. There’s a Clásico, that’s important enough. The goal since the beginning of the season was to win titles, I said that at the Joan Gamper Trophy. We have one title and now we want more, the league and the Cup. We have to remember where we were last year and where we are now. Anyone can see our improvement, except those who don’t want to see us doing well.