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Xavi delighted by Barcelona winger’s return for Betis clash: “Few in the world like him”



Photo by LLUIS GENE/AFP via Getty Images

Barcelona will look to get a step closer to winning the La Liga title when they face off against Manuel Pellegrini’s Real Betis at Spotify Camp Nou on Saturday night.

The Blaugrana spurned a great opportunity to stretch their lead at the top of the table to 14 points earlier this week as they fell to a 2-1 defeat to Rayo Vallecano away from home.

With seven games left to be played, an 11-point cushion is still quite comfortable, but Xavi Hernandez & co. will be gunning to bag a victory on Saturday and edge closer to bringing back the league title to the club for the first time since 2019.

Ahead of the game against Real Betis, the Barcelona manager spoke to the media, where he discussed several topics, including the returns of key players like Ousmane Dembele and Andreas Christensen from injury.

Talking about the challenges of facing Real Betis, Xavi said: “Betis are a great team and they know what they are playing for. Physically they are strong and they have technical quality, at a very high level. We’ll try to take the ball away from them and dominate.

“We have to wipe the slate clean because we had the worst game of the season. Now we have another chance in La Liga.”

As mentioned earlier, Barcelona have been boosted by the return of Dembele after a three-month period out on the sidelines, which Xavi said was ‘important news’ for the team.

“The sensations were not good and the injury was in a striking area that was more difficult to heal. He is fine and happy. We’ll see if we start him or use him as a substitute, but it’s very important news for us,” he stated.

On whether the La Liga season was too long, Xavi said: “I don’t understand why you say it’s taking too long. Last season was an eternity. Now I look at the standings and I’m happy. Sometimes I don’t understand it.

“I’m having a good time in this league, who wouldn’t have signed up for this? The other day we played the worst game of the season, but tomorrow is a good opportunity and there is the hope to win. Last year it was a long one.”

Barcelona will be playing the next season at the Montjuic Olympic Stadium as Camp Nou will undergo renovations. It means that the number of fans that will be at the stadium will be just a little higher than half the capacity of Camp Nou.

“There may be fewer members and season ticket holders, but Barça go everywhere and the stadium is full. What we have to try to do is generate that excitement. There will be fans at Montjuïc, but we have to generate that excitement,” Xavi said.

Ansu Fati has struggled for minutes (Photo by PAU BARRENA/AFP via Getty Images)

Elaborating on Ansu Fati’s limited involvement this season, the Barcelona manager stated: “I see that Ferran and Raphinha are a bit better. They are competing and the coach is the one who decides. Ansu has played and has been important, but in the end there is fierce competition to play for Barça.”

Barcelona have failed to win three of their last four La Liga matches, and Xavi insisted that it was important for them to get the winning feeling back, saying:

“If we look at the last 20 games, the analysis is very good, but if we look at the last four, it’s not. We need to react and get back to the feeling we had against Atlético. We need to be more consistent and dominant, we need to show our style of play.”

On Pedri’s role and whether he can play at the base of the midfield, Xavi said: “We have tried many games with Pedri in the base and it has worked out well. It’s not because the result was negative that he has to be on the inside from now on.

“But it didn’t work out well at all. He was decisive when he was driving, the pass to Lewy was very good in the goal that was disallowed for offside. At the base he can play without any problems.”

On whether the players have been spoken to about what went wrong against Rayo, he said: “We spoke to the players and there was a football concept that didn’t work out. It was our mistake. We have to react tomorrow.”

When asked if there was a lack of hunger within the team, he replied: “It’s a footballing issue. I also make mistakes as a coach. Maybe the fact that Madrid lost makes us relax a bit. It happened to us in Almería and it happened to us again. You always have to be hungry to win”.

Back to the topic of Dembele, Xavi hailed the French winger, claiming that there are not many players like him in the world, saying:

“We have missed him. He is the best one-on-one player, there are few in the world like him. Ask the full-backs in La Liga who they prefer. He’s a player with tremendous speed, he’s a difference-maker. It’s logical that we’ve missed him.”

Dembele is back. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Xavi also expressed his delight at having Christensen back from injury, saying: “He is a personal signing of mine. I have a lot of faith and trust in him. He is always focused and is a player who is always aware of what is going on. It’s great news. He’s available and one hundred percent.”

It was reported earlier this week that Barcelona had a meeting with La Liga officials to discuss about the return of Lionel Messi. When asked about the same, Xavi said:

“It’s not just about the possible arrival of Leo, it’s about improving the squad for next year. It’s not an important issue, there’s a league to win. Mateu informs us and in theory, everything is going well.”

On the situation of Pablo Torre, the manager said: “I’ve read that Pablo has bad habits and that’s not true. He’s involved and he’s very well-liked in the dressing room, he’s a very good lad. He has competition and is playing minutes in the Barça first team, which is a lot. I expect him to be important.”

Talking about some of the criticism that Barça have drawn despite being at the top of the table, Xavi said:

“Barça is the most difficult club in the world. It’s not enough to win 1-0. If people don’t see it the way we do, we’re not going to beat ourselves up. From the inside we value it a lot. We have to value the league.”

Having called up youngster Lamine Yamal to the squad again, Xavi spoke highly about the 15-year-old, saying: “He is a player I have faith in, with a lot of talent. He can have a great future at the club.”

On going up against Manuel Pellegrini, Xavi said: “Pellegrini is a reference. He always makes his teams very attractive and it’s always nice to see a coach like that.”

The Barcelona manager also had great words of praise for Real Betis legend Joaquin, who recently announced his retirement.

“Joaquín’s personality is what I take from him. He has been extraordinary, amazing. One of the best wingers I’ve seen in my career. He is a cheerful and good person. The best memory is his smile,” he said.

The 43-year-old also praised Raphinha and claimed that the Brazilian is having a great debut season at Barcelona, stating:

“Rafa is having a good season, with goals and hard work. He’s a perfectionist and sometimes has a touch of frustration. He always works hard and has the right predisposition to succeed. In his first year at Barça, he is having a great season.”

On Jules Kounde’s performances at right-back, he said: “Next year will give us time. This year he is adapting. I know he’s a centre-back, but due to circumstances he’s had to adapt to full-back and he’s doing well. He’s giving us a lot defensively. He’s a guarantee.”

Source: BarçaTV+

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