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‘The most important game’ – Xavi talks ahead of Barcelona’s ‘final’ vs Real Madrid

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Photo by JOSEP LAGO/AFP via Getty Images

Barcelona will take on Real Madrid in perhaps their most important match of the season tomorrow at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Having crashed out of the UEFA Champions League earlier this week, Barcelona have only the La Liga title left to play for.

They are already eight points behind leaders Real Madrid in the table and need a win tomorrow to stand a chance of making a late push for the title.

Ahead of the game, Barcelona manager Xavi Hernandez addressed the media, discussing various topics, including the fallout from the club’s defeat to PSG earlier in the week.

“Tomorrow we have the chance to get back into La Liga. It happens to be the most important game of the season. We will find a strong Madrid and even more so after eliminating the best team in the world, City,” said Xavi, kicking things off.

“The euphoria will be sky high and the opposition will be very strong. Today we trained well, yesterday we had a Champions League hangover. The team has all the enthusiasm in the world to fight for this league.”

On what kind of Real Madrid he is expecting to see tomorrow, considering how defensive they were against Manchester City earlier in the week, the Barcelona manager said:

“Madrid had to defend against City, who are the best team in the world today. They had to defend and they defended very well. These are situations that you have to dominate and they also know how to do it.

“In the first half with us, they did well. They have potential, they know how to attack and make transitions.”

Adding that they did discuss about how Real Madrid might come at them tomorrow, Xavi remarked: “We talked about it today, that in the first few minutes of each half, Madrid will press. They are at home. We have to be very brave.

“It’s the perfect stage to show personality. We’ve prepared well for the game, I think we can play well and win. The first few minutes will be key, calming the game and pressing high.”

On Real Madrid’s competitive spirit, Xavi said: “They have won many times, because they are very good. I don’t believe so much in luck. I believe in work, in the team, it’s not by chance. Madrid, in the last three years, have knocked out the best team in the world twice.”

As is the case with almost every press interaction Xavi has, the topic of his future was broached again as he was asked if there was a meeting scheduled with the club to discuss his continuity.

“There is no meeting. I have not been summoned. I am not the important one. Tomorrow we are playing for the title. We have to win. We’re playing for the league,” said Xavi, side-stepping the question.

On whether he saw tomorrow’s game as a final, Xavi replied: “It’s the most important game. We have to win to put pressure on them. If we win, we would be five points behind.”

“They’ve lost one game out of 31, we don’t have bad numbers either. I see it as an opportunity to get closer. We want to compete,” he added.

On whether there will be a crisis if Barcelona lose to Real Madrid, Xavi responded: “I think in a positive scenario, in winning. My thinking is positive. We will go out to win the game.”

Tomorrow’s game is a final for Barcelona says Xavi. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

The Barcelona manager also addressed the rumours of rifts in the dressing room following the comments made by Ilkay Gundogan after the loss to PSG and Ronald Araujo’s reaction to it.

“When there is no malice, there is no problem. It’s settled,” said Xavi.

With Real Madrid having had to play 120 minutes against Manchester City and having a day’s rest less than Barcelona, Xavi was asked if fatigue could become a factor.

“It’s more for them to take into account. We are coming in well and I think we are prepared. I don’t think fatigue will affect us too much,” the Spaniard replied.

The Barcelona manager has previously been vocal about Real Madrid TV and their ‘attacks’ on referees, calling them out for putting pressure on match officials. However, he refrained from making any such comments today when asked about it, saying:

“Talking about referees doesn’t help me. I hope it goes unnoticed and that he gets all the decisions right.”

On the loss to PSG and his own reactions on the touchline, Xavi said: “I would have had to control my frustration more. There is a lot of tension, you see the injustice. We didn’t minimise our mistakes and it took its toll on us. The situation was favourable and we let it slip.”

“We were not good. We made mistakes, I made mistakes too. We have to be self-critical. We will return to the Champions League and compete again,” he added.

When asked about who he will play on the left flank, where Raphinha has excelled, Xavi stated that irrespective of who plays, they will have to do certain tasks for the team, saying:

“They must help a lot in defence and attack. They are the free man and have superiority. Raphinha has adapted very well to this position. We have several options for this position. We will see.”

Urging the team to channel their frustration from the midweek loss into tomorrow’s game, Xavi added:

“We have to change our mindset. Let the anger, frustration and helplessness of the other day be turned in our favour. We have in front of us a strong Real Madrid, morally reinforced after this week in the Champions League.”

Source: Mundo Deportivo

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