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Xavi talks Araujo, Dembele, Gavi, Pedri, Busquets, Alonso ahead of Girona vs Barcelona



Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Barcelona will be aiming to stretch their lead atop the La Liga standings when they take on local rivals Girona in Montilivi on Saturday afternoon.

The Catalan giants are in a good moment, having not lost any of their last 12 matches across all competitions. They go into the game on the back of a crucial 1-0 win over Real Sociedad that sent them through to the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey.

And, manager Xavi Hernandez will be hoping that his troops can continue building momentum in their bid to add to their trophy haul for the season.

On the eve of the match, the 43-year-old spoke to the media in his customary pre-match press conference, excerpts from which are as follows.

On Girona: “I agree with Michel, Girona are brave, aggressive in high pressure, it’s similar to what we play. Michel is one of the coaches I like the most, he’s a reference point. They can make life difficult for us. It will be a very tough match.”

On the team being unable to kill off matches: “I’m worried about not finishing off games, but we are winning them, which is the important thing. We have to value the way we are this year compared to last year. We’re in great form and we’re first in La Liga. We only lost points against Espanyol because we didn’t score.”

On his starting XI: “I’m not thinking of a typical eleven. We’ll probably make a few changes, there are a lot of games, suspensions, injuries, four or five players about to be suspended for yellow cards, we need everyone, I’m very clear about that.”

On the possibility of facing Real Madrid in Copa del Rey: “We’ll see. We’re not thinking about the final. We depend on the draw. Whoever we get, we’ll go for it.”

On the team’s morale: “We are in a good moment, except for the Champìons League. We are well placed in the league, in the cup, and with a Super Cup title. We can have a great season.”

On Ousmane Dembele’s contract: “For me he is important, he is different and fundamental. It’s hard to find such decisive players in one-on-one situations. The club know that. Since we’ve been here he’s been at an extraordinary level. I hope he stays here for many years.”

Xavi wants Dembele to stay at Barcelona for a long time (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

On Gavi and Ronald Araujo’s contract registration: “We are calm, that’s what Mateu (Alemany) and Jordi (Cruyff) tell me. I don’t think it will affect them, the issue will be resolved without further ado. They are both calm, and confident to play for Barça and they are enjoying it.”

On Ferran Torres: “Tomorrow he’s suspended. He is fine. Ferran always trains well. He never gives up. He is an example no matter how well or badly things go. He’s a guarantee because he gives his all. I have tremendous confidence in him. He lacks a goal but he trains well.”

On Sergio Busquets’ future: “We haven’t talked about his future, we did it a long time ago. He is one of the best pivots in history. He is fundamental for me, even if he is underrated. I hope he feels strong enough to continue but it’s up to him.”

On Ronald Araujo’s best position: “For me, the ideal position is right centre-back. He has grown a lot in terms of ball control. He’s much more confident, he feels strong. It’s not strange that he plays as a full-back.”

On Eric Garcia and team selection: “You will see that there is no starting eleven. Often the player who comes on in the 60th minute decides the game. The players have to understand that now there are five substitutions and everything can change. Nobody should feel like a starter or a substitute. That’s the way football is nowadays.”

On Marcos Alonso: “We are very happy with Marcos. He has adapted, he is reliable and proven. He has the maturity to play in many positions. He’s a signing of a high level and a very important player for the team.”

On signing a new right-back: “The squad is very well put together. Except for Bellerin, we don’t have a natural full-back but we have very good options.”

On Pedri playing his 100th game for Barcelona: “The numbers are extraordinary. He has a brutal present and future. And not only him. We have a generation of very young and very good players. Pedri is one of them, I have seen his talent in very few players. We have to make them feel loved.”

On the opposition: “We have a very difficult opponent ahead of us. They have pace up front, tall centre-backs. It’s a very evenly-matched game. There is talent in both teams.”

On Marc-Andre ter Stegen: “I already said that he is among the three best in the world, if not the best. For Barça, because of how we play, he is the best. He always chooses well, plays with his feet, always chooses the third man. He was criticised because even chairs are criticised here.”

On Gavi: “He is pure passion, he motivates, he is contagious, he has a personality at the age of 18 that is surprising. The soul he puts into everything is bestial.”

Xavi a fan of Gavi’s passion (Photo by LLUIS GENE/AFP via Getty Images)

On receiving criticism and praise: “It’s great that they are now saying I’m the coach of the new era. There is no middle ground at Barça. It already happened to me as a player. That’s why I have an emotional balance. I talk it over with the players so that they don’t get too big and don’t fall apart.”

On his attacking options: “We had six pure forwards and now we have five, but there are alternatives. Balde, Alba and Roberto can also play as wingers, like the midfielders. I’m happy with the squad, I don’t need any more.”

On Ansu Fati: “He is comfortable close to the goal, but he can play with his back to the goal, one on one. He can play through the centre or on the wings.”

On Ousmane Dembele’s fitness: “We try to make sure he never gets injured. We do load control work, gym work. He has changed his mind and he is happy. He feels loved and happy and that’s important. I give him confidence. I’ve been delighted with him since the first day.”

On Arnau Martinez: “He is a very good full-back. Very gifted, strong in the duel, with a lot of personality. He’s very interesting, yes.”

On whether the absence of key defenders led to UCL exit: “I don’t think it was the main problem in Munich or Milan, I don’t give any more thought to the elimination in the Champions League.”

On Girona boss Michel: “He is doing a great job. He is a very intelligent person, and was a talented footballer who understands the game and transmits it to his team. I like him a lot as a coach and how his teams play, very dynamic.”

On the level of the players: “We have players with a great level, and this is a problem in order to choose a lineup, but this is a positive thing for the group.”

Source: BarçaTV+

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