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Xavi talks Messi, Araujo, Dembele, Gavi, Pedri, Lewandowski ahead of Man United vs Barcelona



Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Barcelona have travelled to England as they get set to take on Manchester United in the second leg of their UEFA Europa League knockout playoffs.

The first leg at Camp Nou last week ended in a 2-2 draw, with the two teams playing a hugely entertaining, end-to-end affair. More of the same could be on the cards at Old Trafford tomorrow with a spot in the Round of 16 of the tournament on the line.

Ahead of the game, Barcelona manager Xavi Hernandez interacted with the media and touched upon several aspects regarding his team. Excerpts from the 43-year-old’s press conference are as follows.

On facing Manchester United at Old Trafford: “It will be a great game, the stadium is marvelous, the atmosphere. Both teams are in great form, we are talking about an opponent that is one of the best in Europe at the moment and we hope to give our best.”

“Manchester United have mentality, pace, passion, they showed it at Camp Nou and we have to match them. We have to have personality and a lot of intensity, as well as the mentality to beat a big team in Europe. It’s a perfect scenario.”

On whether the second leg will be similar to the first: “I think so, it will be similar. They will press more because of the atmosphere, it will be one of the best games you can see in Europe.”

On his starting XI for the game: “I have the idea, and the approach will be the same if we play with three or four midfielders. We are motivated, I think we can play a great game. We have every chance of winning. Tomorrow will be a test.”

On having made his UCL debut as a player against United: “I was nervous on the touchline with Van Gaal. Beckham scored. We drew, but we had chances to win.”

On the key absences for the game: “We’re missing Pedri and Gavi, but I would highlight the absence of Dembele for everything he gives us. Pedri gives us rhythm, Gavi gives us the intensity that would be necessary tomorrow.”

“There are alternatives to compensate for Pedri and Gavi’s absences, we have to bring order, intensity…”

On Ronald Araujo: “I’ve tried to get him to take risks, it’s not his main quality. When you dominate a situation, it gives you an amount of uncertainty. We always want to play in the opposition half, if you see how he passes the ball, changes of direction, he has improved a lot.”

On Sergi Roberto: “I like to have Sergi Roberto in the team, he plays everywhere, he is a guarantee and tomorrow he will surely be important.”

On the possibility of extra time and penalties: “All scenarios are possible for tomorrow’s game. Extra time, penalties, our idea won’t change. Attack, be protagonists, press them. Don’t let them feel comfortable. They showed passion at Camp Nou and we have to match it tomorrow.”

On the confidence within the team: “Tomorrow we will see if we have changed. We cannot say that we have changed. We haven’t been up to the task in the Champions League, we’re in the Europa League. We can’t say ‘we’re back’… Tomorrow we have to test ourselves and prove it on the pitch.”

“We are in a good moment, with confidence, leaders in the league, we won a title. But it’s another test, another competition. We have to have a lot of mentality.”

On the keys to win at Old Trafford: “Intensity, duels, having personality. Play without complexes, forget about what has happened in recent years in Europe.”

On the possible return of Lionel Messi: “For Messi, this is his home, he has the doors open. He is a friend and we are in permanent contact. His return depends on him.”

Messi always welcome at Barcelona, claims Xavi (Photo by ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP via Getty Images)

On whether Messi would fit into this Barcelona team: “Of course, he’s the best player in the world. The best player in history. He would always fit in the team.”

On the Europa League: “There are five titles we are competing for this season and we have already won one. We’re a long way from the semi-final or final but it’s an important test. It’s a lost title if we don’t go through. We are very excited about the Europa League and the Copa del Rey.”

On the pressure on him: “It is for me as a coach. Everyone would want to play in this environment. I would tell them to be calm and control their emotions.”

On Marcus Rashford: “He’s an outstanding player, he’s going through an extraordinary moment, but that’s all. We will try to do the same, but yes, we have to take him and the team into account.”

On Robert Lewandowski: “Strikers always need to score and they are up for debate. We look beyond goals. He has also made a difference in assists, like the one against Villarreal. Lewandowski is a huge player for us. He has changed the mentality of the club.”

On whether Barcelona will be hurt by the absences: “We are here to compete. The absences can’t be an excuse. I think we have the team to win and go through.”

On former Madridistas Casemiro and Raphael Varane: “They are both important for their team. The mentality, the passion. They are used to playing these kind of games. They have experience.”

On Pep Guardiola: “I haven’t spoken with Guardiola. I have a very good relationship and we talk often. But tomorrow we have a lot of work to do, and he is focused on tonight. We’ll meet another time.”

On the memories of facing Manchester United: “A lot of good memories… The finals we won against them.”

On Manchester United legend Paul Scholes: “Paul Scholes is one of the best midfielders in history. He is very underrated.”

On the Enriquez Negreira case: “I have never felt we have been helped by the referees, neither in Europe nor in Spain. That’s for sure.”

On Manchester United’s takeover bid by Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad al-Thani: “He is a responsible person, serious, good choice for Man United. I worked in Qatar for six years and I know him.”

Source: BarçaTV+

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