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Xavi talks Frenkie de Jong, Sergino Dest and Memphis Depay ahead of Athletic

Here’s the latest from the Barcelona boss

Napoli v FC Barcelona - UEFA Europa League Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

Barcelona boss Xavi faced the press on Saturday to talk about his team’s next La Liga match against Athletic Club at the Camp Nou.

The coach spoke about the match, offered an update on Memphis Depay and Clement Lenglet and also praised Frenkie de Jong and Sergino Dest.

Here are the best bits:

Xavi on Athletic

I don’t think we will see them change many things. Marcelino has a clear idea of how he wants to play. He’s a great coach. His teams are very physically strong. They sit back and defend very well. They are difficult opponents, they beat us last time. We need to consolidate all the good things we are doing. We are a different team from when we last faced them.

Xavi on Memphis and Lenglet

They are training normally. They are 100%, unless anything unexpected happens they will be ready for tomorrow. There is more competition in the entire team but Memphis will be important for us, same as Clement Lenglet. It’s good for me to have more players to choose from and for the players to improve, make sure they give their all. They are two important players and it’ll depend on them.

Xavi on Laporta’s celebrations against Napoli

I think it’s good. We have to be excited but also realistic and remain humble, continue to work. We need to consolidate our improvement in tomorrow’s game. It’ll be a final. I still have the same speech from when I arrived. Winning La Liga will be very difficult but I don’t want to discard it either. I’m happy the president is excited.

Xavi on how he’s feeling

I’m also very happy when I see the fans outside the training ground and in town. It makes me happy. We will continue to work, with the same sacrifice and humility as before, and leave it all out on the pitch. At Barca, only the wins count, we can’t draw. We need to make sure our fans are proud of us for giving the maximum effort. I think that’s how the fans are feeling now. We have a team that will give their all. Recently the Camp Nou has been a spectacle, the fans are with us and we appreciate their support.

Xavi on if this is the Barca he wants

We need to improve, we need to improve in many aspects. We still lose a lot of unnecessary balls. We need to be embarrassed by losing these balls. We need to be responsible for our actions and defend better. Defend better from set plays. We have a lot of points we need to improve but it’s also evident we are improving a lot. So we need to continue to work, give our all, continue down this road and try to improve. We can’t say that we’re at a very high level at the moment. At some moments yes, but other moments not so much. We still have room left for improvement.

Xavi on Frenkie de Jong

Firstly, I want to talk about his personality. He’s very self-critical, he’s very motivated. When asked, he said he could play much better. It’s very hard to play better than the game he played last time against Napoli. He’s able to keep up this level and make the difference, to try shots from outside the box. He receives a lot of criticism but he’s in form right now, very capable, we work with him individually with a lot of videos. He’s very humble and it’s hard to find a player like him. He’s an excellent football player.

Xavi on Auba’s goal against Napoli

Everything counts, playing well, winning on and off the pitch. I know where I’m at. I’m at the best club in the world where you can’t just win, you have to play well. Which is why we talk about these 22, 23 touches, that’s what people like. We want to implement the style again that made us great. We can win or lose but we want the people to identify with the style of play, that’s fundamental. We continue to work on this. I know this week I received praise, but we know next week the opposite can happen.

Xavi on Inaki and Nico Williams

Both Nico and Inaki Williams are very fast players. On the counter they know how to take advantage of the spaces. We need to try and stop them, so they don’t hurt us on the counter. It will be very difficult because they are very fast, they understand the spaces very well. They are not just physically gifted, but technically able to generate plays themselves or for the team. We are talking about a very good Athletic team.

Xavi on if Barca conceding too many

Yes we need to improve in that area. We need to make sure we leave the scoreline at zero. We know opponents also play but we have to close down our goal, receive less chances from our opponents. Sometimes we lose our concentration at important moments. We can improve in many areas, but particularly in that area.

Xavi on his attack

Nowadays most of the teams defend very well and it’s hard to score goals. You need to try and open up the defense a little more and attack them using players like Adama, Ferran and Auba. For us it’s incredible, not just from a goalscoring perspective, but also how they generate chances, how they understand space. Ferran, even though he’s young, he is already experienced, like Adama and Auba which is why they are having such a big impact.

Xavi on Puyol’s bet that he’ll win Barca the league

Whether or not we win the league I will go out for dinner with him anyway because he’s a great friend of mine and he has a lot of trust in me and that makes me happy. He’s a very positive guy. I would have loved to have him in the dressing room. He’s spectacular, I thank him and we’re going to fight for this. We know the difficulty of the task in hand, we are down a lot of points, we don’t depend on ourselves, but we’ll try until it’s mathematically impossible.

Xavi on Sergino Dest

Sergino is doing great. The last month, he’s been playing very well. We’ve corrected a lot of things from him defensively, also in offense he provides a lot. The other game he also tried to shoot. He’s good and we appreciate his efforts. When I arrived he was a little injured, he wasn’t comfortable. Now he’s 100% and he has the level to compete here. There’s competition in his position but it’s up to them.

Xavi on January signings

Auba hasn’t surprised me, he’s been showing it his entire career. He works hard with a lot of humility. Adama has surprised me in his decision-making abilities sometimes. We saw that his decision-making wasn’t the best but now it is. Ferran, I asked Alemany for that signing. He’s spectacular, he’s incredible, the work he provides and how he works for the team, how he associates with his team-mates, we are talking about a player of top level, perhaps he’s the one who has surprised me the most. I liked him before, he’s a fantastic signing, of course we want goals from him. But I can tell you he’s a marvellous football player.