Xavi talks Dembele, Alba, Suarez, Araujo, Aubameyang ahead of Atletico Madrid clash
Barcelona will face off against Atletico Madrid in a crucial La Liga encounter at Camp Nou on Sunday.
The Catalan giants are currently fifth in the table, a place and a point below their weekend opponents. A win would send them into the top four, while a defeat would widen the gap between the two teams, making it a decisive contest in the top-four battle.
Speaking ahead of this blockbuster clash at Camp Nou, Barcelona manager Xavi Hernandez highlighted the importance of the match, saying: “It’s another final. We play against the champions, with a very good coach, a chameleon-like and complicated team. It’s a six-pointer because we would overtake Atletico.”
Xavi addresses Dembele situation
The 42-year-old also spoke about the situation surrounding Ousmane Dembele. With Barça having failed to offload him in January, the manager insisted that he will use the Frenchman as and when convenient, putting an end to speculations of the Frenchman being sent to the stands.
“No solution was found with Dembélé. He is part of the squad, he has a contract… We have spoken with the president and just as it was decided that a way out would be found for him, the circumstances have changed,” he said.
“We can’t shoot ourselves in the foot. Dembélé can help us. He has been a good professional. It is a club decision. Everything possible was done to find a way out for Dembélé. I understand everyone’s positions but we have to close ranks and think what’s best for the club. We think he can help us,” Xavi added.
The head coach then added that he would understand if fans were angry regarding the entire situation but hoped they would show Dembele support when he steps on the pitch. “I will use Dembélé when I think it is convenient. If Dembélé plays I hope he has the support of the fans. But I understand the anger,” he said.
Xavi discusses January signings
Xavi also hailed Mateu Alemany and the recruitment team for the job they did in January, saying: “The club has done a great job in the market. Everyone… I would highlight Mateu Alemany but the general effort has been extraordinary with the difficulties that there were. The team comes out stronger.
“I’m still very excited. With what we have and the signings I think we can improve.”
Speaking about the late January additions, Adama Traore and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the manager said: “Adama arrives in a better physical moment but Aubameyang is also available to play. Both have come in very well. I am very excited and looking forward to seeing them in the team.
“Aubameyang and Adama are at a very good age to understand the game. They are very good players going into space. We have gained a lot of power up front. We have gained competitiveness.”
Explaining his past comments regarding Aubameyang when he had claimed that he would not be a good fit at Barcelona, Xavi added: “I never said that Aubameyang wasn’t good for Barça, I said that he didn’t have all the qualities but he is a player who can give us a lot up front. We have to take advantage of his qualities.”
Xavi further elaborated on the Dembele situation, saying: “I don’t decide anything unilaterally. Things are decided between all of us. We decided in January and we’ve done it now. We believe that the best thing is to have Dembélé because he has a contract and he can play.
“Dembélé, at the moment, is a player of ours. He is a very good professional, always, and his commitment is impeccable. In the minutes we need him, he will help us, I have no doubt about that.”
Alves’ Europa League exclusion and the fate of youngsters
Speaking of Dani Alves’ exclusion from the UEFA Europa League squad, Xavi said: “I feel bad about the decision. Whichever you take is a tough decision. In the end we chose Dani for the position, because we believe that we have that position better occupied. Dani gives us a lot and he is going to give us, I have been unfair.”
Youngsters Ez Abde and Ferran Jutgla are likely to see lesser game-time following the new additions in January. Providing an update on the pair’s status, Xavi said: “Jutglà and Abde have given us a lot, and are among the options for us. If they don’t play, they can go down to the B team because they are young and need minutes.”
The manager also stressed the importance of Barça renewing the contract of key defender Ronald Araujo, saying: “Renewing Araujo is one of the priorities because he is giving us a lot and he is highly regarded in the club and the dressing room.”
Xavi also spoke about the left-back situation at the club, insisting Jordi Alba remains a key figure while also confirming an injury blow to youngster Alejandro Balde. “For me, Jordi Alba is a fundamental piece for the team. Balde will be out for more than a month, which is a shame,” he said.
Xavi discussed the return of former Barcelona striker Luis Suarez to Camp Nou, stating that the fans should give him a good reception owing to his contributions to the team in the past. “We are talking about perhaps the best No. 9 in the history of Barcelona, I think he should receive the appropriate appreciation.”
The club icon also stated that Barcelona remain an attractive proposition for players despite the recent setbacks, highlighting the business they did in January.
“The vast majority of players still want to come to Barça. We’ve seen it and it’s good news… Now is the time to think about the club, think about what you can do for the club and gestures like those of Auba, Adama, Ferran, their efforts are praiseworthy,” Xavi said.
As for the club’s objectives for the season, he stated: “The main goal, for now, is to get into Champions League positions. From then on we won’t rule anything out until the math says otherwise.”