The second of Barcelona’s three virtual finals was played last night at the Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys. Faced against eternal rivals in Atletico Madrid, the onus was on the Catalans to regain their lost form and push against one of Spain’s most in-form units.
That was exactly what unfolded last night. Barcelona were the team to beat, dominating the Colchoneros for the better part of 75 minutes and pressing high in numbers. In the end, the 1-0 scoreline flatters Diego Simeone’s men who were nowhere close to as effective.
Speaking to the media after his team’s priceless win on Sunday night, Xavi lauded the team’s spirit, belief and determination to overcome all obstacles and dish out a comprehensive performance.
“The players took a step forward and believed in the win. The Porto match went well, but today was excellent.”
“We’re Barça. What we did today, we have to do it every match,” he continued.
He went on to add that the 1-0 result was kind on Diego Simeone’s men, who very easily could have been outscored by more.
“Our effectiveness failed today. We should have scored more goals. It’s a complete match, with the exception of the last 5 minutes. We need to find the necessary consistency.”
On the star of the game
Speaking on the man-of-the-match, Joao Felix, Xavi explained the tactical tweak that brought the best out of the Portuguese star.
“Joao Felix made the difference once again. He understands each other well with Cancelo in that side. I’m happy to see him well.”
Having scored Barcelona’s only goal on the night, Felix celebrated his goal like never before against his parent club. One could see the clear outburst of emotions on his face, for the goal meant the world to him.
“You have to ask Joao Felix about his celebration. It’s what he has inside of him. That’s where the reaction comes from. Joao was eager to show his football, and that’s how he reacts. It’s human nature,” the manager said on the same.
“I told Joao Felix to stay calm. He had to use the circumstances as an extra motivation for this game. He played very well,” he added.
Finally, the Barcelona manager was asked about the possibility of signing Felix on a permanent deal especially after the player himself expressed his desire to stay. To that, Xavi said,
“Signing Joao Felix permanently depends on the club’s sporting area. Personally, I am very happy with him. He’s a great kid for the dressing room, does not create problems, loves to have fun, and I’m happy to have him in my team.”
On the defence and Inaki Pena
The spotlight of the press conference then shifted from Felix to the other players who dished out special performances on the night. The first player to receive appreciation from Xavi, unsurprisingly, was Inaki Pena for his high-quality display to fill in Marc-Andre Te Stegen’s shoes.
“Iñaki is a role model. How he trains and how he plays. When you train well, you play well. Today, two amazing saves again.”
He also confirmed that Inigo Martinez felt discomfort in the buildup to the game, albeit did not reveal the extent of injury.
“Iñigo has some biceps discomfort. He’ll go through some tests tomorrow. Let’s hope it’s nothing.”
Jules Kounde was Barcelona’s best defender by far against Los Rojiblancos, immaculate with his every tackle and interception.
“Kounde was very good. Whoever plays as a right-back will depend on whether we play with a 3 or 4 at the back formation. Today, Jules was great in that position,” Xavi said on the French defender.
The Terrassa-based tactician then proceeded to give his two cents on the centre-back situation where he has numerous undroppable players playing for two spots.
“Whether Christensen or Iñigo plays will depend on the opponent. We can change the system to a back three or something else. We’ll see.”
On his midfielders
Finally, Xavi commented on the performance in the middle of the park, where Pedri Gonzalez, Ilkay Gundogan and Frenkie de Jong dished out a classic.
“Pedri, Gündogan and De Jong have played very few matches together. It’s a chemistry thing, and it takes some time. Today they played very well.”
“Our midfield was especially good tonight. Atleti pressed us less in midfield, so we found Joao Felix in great spaces,” he concluded.
Source: Mundo Deportivo