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Xavi talks Eric Garcia, Gavi and Ousmane Dembele ahead of Espanyol clash

Check out the latest from the Barcelona boss

Xavi Hernandez Press Conference Photo by Xavier Bonilla/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Xavi spoke to the press on Saturday to discuss Barcelona’s next match which is the small matter of a Catalan derby at Espanyol in La Liga.

The coach spoke about Sunday’s opponents, Dani Alves’s suspension, the fitness of Eric and Memphis and was full of praise for Gavi.

Here are the best bits:

Xavi on Espanyol

Tomorrow we play a derby against a rival that’s both intense and difficult with a great manager. They work very well. It’s one of the best Espanyol teams in recent years. They work well both in defense and attack. We’re also in good form now. We want to make sure we keep improving. Tomorrow will be a great test for us against an intense rival, it’s a derby which is always an emotion-packed match. It’s another final, another test, and important for us.

Xavi on Barca’s form

Yes we want to consolidate the things we are doing well. In my opinion we played well against Atletico. Defensively, strategically we have things to improve on. We need 2-3 consecutive good results to prove we are on the right track and so tomorrow is important in that sense.

Xavi on Dani Alves being out

Dani is very important for us. He gives us so much. We can’t do anything against the suspension. He’ll miss two games. We’ll see. We have various options. We’ll decide tomorrow but clearly he will be missed. He helps us so much also in attack to create superiority in the other half. He can score goals, create assists, so he’s important.

Xavi on if Barca could still fight for title

I already said he can’t dismiss anything. We know the difficulties, we are 15 points behind, there are still games to be played so it’s a big gap. The first objective is to finish in the top four but I don’t want to discard anything else. We’ll see in these next games. We need 2-3 good games to consolidate these good feelings and we’ll see where we end up. We also have to wait for teams above us to drop points and for us to stay consistent.

Xavi on what is missing from the Barca team

In the end we are competing very well, in intensity and rhythm. In certain aspects such as the high press we are able to regain possession and I want to continue with this intensity and rhythm. With the ball we are circulating it very fast with less touches. We are improving, what we need to do is consolidate. The results will dictate whether or not we are improving. We’ve reached the top four, which was the objective, but maintaining that is the difficult part.

Xavi on Ferran Reverter leaving

We’ll make sure that doesn’t affect us. We’ve talked about it in the dressing room. I’ve talked to Ferran. It’s a personal situation. He’s made it known publicly, he’s helped us a lot and we wish him the best. It’s a shame but it’s down to personal circumstances.

Xavi on Eric Garcia and Memphis Depay

Eric is good. If tomorrow nothing crazy happens he’ll be on the list. We’ll see if he starts. Memphis still needs a bit more time. We’ll see how he evolves this week. He’s doing well, it’s a little relapse in the same area and it takes a little longer to recuperate. He’s looking good and next week he’ll be available.

Xavi on who will take penalties and free-kicks

Well, today we worked on free-kicks for example. In the end it was a surprise because some players don’t want to take them but they take them very well. Pedri, Ferran, Eric Garcia. Today Martin Braithwaite and Frenkie de Jong. They will train it. Messi trained it. Messi at 21 wasn’t taking them. But he trained and free-kicks are a question of training. Always at the end of training we work on free-kicks. We have Memphis, Dani Alves, other players who I think can take a step forward in these situations. Ahead of any games, the staff comes up with a list of players who will be responsible.

Xavi on who makes the list

We make the list logically. It’s always been like this. It’s based on sensations. Busquets is good at penalties. Leo in the end did everything. But now we need players to take a step forward. Memphis, Auba they are all specialists. Pique as well. We have players to take penalties we’re just not used to seeing them because Messi always took them. Memphis is an excellent specialist. He scored the penalty last time against Espanyol.

Xavi on Dembele

I already had the idea against Atleti to have him play the second half but circumstances meant that didn’t happen because of the red card. He’s going to help the team and he’ll play for sure. I think it’s a closed topic. He’s part of the squad and I’ll decide whether he participates or not.

Xavi on how Barca can improve

Attacking the spaces in the right moments, to be more consistent in the defensive line, strategic plays so the wingers need to participate more in the goal areas. The team are playing intensely, they are winning a lot of duels. We have managed to improve our arriving in our opponents’ 18-yard box. These things need time. We are improving in many aspects. The video sessions and individual training, we are very on top of the players in this regard.

Xavi on Gavi

He’s very good at recovering possession, taking the ball away from opponents, he’s very competitive and wins direct duels. He understands the high press very well, he’s excellent at that, he turns very well when we want to play in between the lines. He’s a player with a lot of talent but he needs to organize himself, he needs to find the right resources in the right moments, he needs to attack the space better, when to let the wingers run or when to pass it. These are tactical situations where he needs to improve. But at 17 years of age his production is spectacular, he’s an incredible talent, at 17 to already have such an impact, play with Spain, it’s marvellous.