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Xavi talks Busquets, Torre, Dembele, Fati, Balde, Frenkie ahead of Barcelona vs Sevilla



Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Barcelona will go head-to-head against Sevilla on Sunday night as they look to strengthen their grip at the top of the La Liga table.

The Blaugrana are currently sitting comfortably in pole position, with a five-point advantage over arch-rivals Real Madrid at the halfway mark in the campaign.

Having been crowned the “winter champions”, Barça will be aiming to build on their strong run of form and continue their march towards lifting their first league title since the 2018/19 campaign.

Ahead of the contest against Sevilla, manager Xavi Hernandez appeared in front of the media and spoke about several topics, including their next opposition, the renewal of Sergio Busquets and Pablo Torre’s situation.

On Sevilla: “We have a tough opponent despite their ranking. Sampaoli has brought back a strong and competitive Sevilla. They work very well defensively and do some very good things in high pressing.

“They will be a strong and tough opponent who can make things difficult for us. They are a team that has players with a lot of experience. Tomorrow will be another test and we have to pass it with the three points.”

On playing with four midfielders: “I think we are comfortable with any system. We have played great games with two wingers. We do the same as last year but we are more mature and with more variations. The four midfielders who play are the ones who lose fewer balls and there are fewer transitions.”

On Sergio Busquets’ contract: “In the end, we all work together and the decision is his. We are waiting to see what he decides. He is a very important person inside and outside, he is the captain, he is part of everything and he has earned the right to decide his future. If he can continue, I’d be delighted.”

On Pablo Torre playing for Barça Atletic: “At his age, he can’t go three weekends without playing and it’s good that he plays, that’s what I let him know when we signed him, he will play with the reserve team, and enjoy and compete, that rhythm will make him ready if we need him.”

On the team’s run of form: “I remember the best period in Barça’s history when I was involved, and we didn’t always play excellently and had brilliant games. In football, there are times when you are better and times when you are not so good.

“We’re in a good moment, five points clear of Madrid, young people are taking the initiative, we’ve just won a title, but we need to keep it going.”

On managing the euphoria around the team: “Talking to the players, telling them that we haven’t achieved much, that we won the Super Cup, which was important, but that this is about winning the league, the Europa League, the cup, this is Barça.

“We have managed to become a family within the dressing room, there is a very good atmosphere, one of the best in my career, we are working well and we are on the right track but we must not let our guard down.”

On Ousmane Dembele’s absence: “Dembélé is the best one-on-one player in the squad. Without him, we lose that quality that generates a lot of chances, but Raphinha, Ferran, Ansu can also do it… We lose in one-on-one but we gain in other things.”

Ousmane Dembele is out injured (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

On Gabriel’s harsh tackle on Vinicius Jr: “Vinicius, Ousmane, Neymar are players who create a lot of unbalance in attack. They make the opposition more aggressive. It’s normal for the opposition’s defensive line to keep an eye on them. From here, the referees and the committee have to do their job.”

On the benefits of the four-man midfield: “It benefits the whole team because we lose fewer balls and avoid more transitions from the opponent, we are more together, if we are like this the pressure is immediate, it benefits the whole team.”

On Frenkie de Jong: “I have always said that he has a huge potential to do whatever he wants in midfield. He has quality, he’s quick and strong…. He is one of the best midfielders in the world. He’s a player I’ve always liked, he’s one of the players who has played the most since I arrived.”

On Alejandro Balde’s condition after he missed training: “I’ve been told by the doctors that he will be fine and available, we’ll decide tomorrow.”

On Chelsea’s spending in the January window: “If they have done it, it’s because they can, I don’t know what the law is in the Premier League but we are focused on what we have to do.”

On whether Barcelona are the favourites to win the title: “We are not favourites. We are competing against the reigning La Liga and Champions League winners. Madrid will fight for the league until the penultimate or last matchday. I still see them as very strong even though they have five points less than us.”

On Ansu Fati: “Things will work out for him, we have to be patient, he is a spectacular asset for the club, we trust him a lot, he is working very well, he has a tremendous mentality in training, but we need to be patient. He is 20 years old and needs time, like everyone else. This is not the time to talk about sales.”

On the team atmosphere: “It was good for us to win the Super Cup. A lot of the young players in the squad hadn’t won a title yet. We’ve freed ourselves up a bit. Now we have to continue with this demand. We can compete for more titles.”

On the pressure of being the league leaders: “We have pressure in every game. Every week is key. Tomorrow, next Sunday, then the Europa League and the Cup semi-finals. We are Barça, so the pressure is welcome. It’s better to fight for titles than for survival.”

On Balde’s development: “We have been surprised by his rapid evolution and that at 19 years of age, he is at such a high level, at the level of a Barça full-back, making a difference, assisting and being important in defence.

“We’ve worked on him, a lot of things defensively, which is perhaps what he was least good at and where he suffered the most. I’m very happy for him, he deserves it.”

Xavi impressed by Balde’s development (Photo by Fran Santiago/Getty Images)

On Raphinha: “Whenever he plays he always generates things. He’s a player who, whether he plays better or worse, is always important. For me, he is a guarantee. I have a lot of confidence in him. I told him a fortnight ago that he was a bit down emotionally. The goal against Betis will do him a lot of good”.

On whether the team is less reliant on Lewandowski now: “It’s important that when Robert was suspended, the team was able to win the games. It’s important to provide goals from the second line, from the wingers.”

On how things have gone since his arrival: “We have to take into account where we were last year and where we are now. We were in a lot of difficulties, we weren’t winning titles and our confidence was low.

“We are full of hope, people go to the stadium excited, we fill the stadium. This is spectacular. There are criticisms, but the people are excited and that’s what I’ll take with me.”

On the solid defence: “We are doing a great job defensively. Ter Stegen’s form is exceptional. We are in a good moment.”

On Jules Kounde’s position: “The normal thing is that he plays at centre-back, which is his natural position, but he is adapting very well at right-back, he gives us a lot of things and he is very good in terms of link-up play. He is an alternative that we have when we don’t have a natural right-back.”

On why Barcelona conceded more goals in the UCL: “There is no explanation. Perhaps the lack of concentration, and also in the Champions League we were affected by the lack of important centre-backs, although that’s no excuse.”

On the team’s improvement: “We play much better football, we understand better situations of third man or free man. We are no longer passing for the sake of passing, but there is an intention, among other things. The growth is exponential.”

On whether Barcelona can reach 100 points: “I’m not worried about that. I want to win the league, even if it’s with 70 points. The objective is to win it. If later we equal a record, great, but the goal is to win the league.”

On the direction the team is heading in: “We are on the right track, still under construction, it is too early to compare ourselves with other eras and say that we can be one of the best Barça teams in history.”

Source: BarçaTV+

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