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Xavi talks Pedri, De Jong, Gundogan, Mbappe, Dembele, Luis Enrique ahead of PSG vs Barcelona



Photo by FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images

Barcelona face their biggest test of the season yet on Wednesday when they lock horns with PSG in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League quarterfinals.

The game will be played away at Parc des Princes, where Barça will be in for a hostile reception from the PSG ultras.

Having made it this far after two seasons of group-stage eliminations, the Catalans will be intent on going the distance in the competition.

On the eve of the match, Barcelona manager Xavi Hernandez appeared in front of the media for the customary press conference and gave an update on the fitness of key stars Pedri and Frenkie de Jong while discussing several other topics.

On team news and tactics

“I can confirm that all those who have travelled will be available tomorrow, barring any surprises,” said Xavi when asked about Pedri and De Jong, confirming a huge boost for the Blaugrana.

Xavi was then asked about his plans for midfield mainstay Ilkay Gundogan and the position the German international will be taking up tomorrow, especially with the possible return of Pedri and De Jong. In response, Xavi said:

“I won’t give any clues, but it will be important. They will give us individual duels, Luis Enrique’s teams are perhaps the most intense in the world. The demand is maximum, we will have to come out of this pressure very well. I think we have worked well.”

When further pushed about how the midfield might look tomorrow, Xavi hinted that the recent returnees might not be starting, saying:

“I don’t think it will vary much tomorrow, we visualise a lot of individual duels. Maybe in this match, we value more how the players are physically and tomorrow is a match to be at 100%. We won’t be able to think, they will push us for 90 minutes.”

Pedri, De Jong are back. (Photo by ANDER GILLENEA/AFP via Getty Images)

On the mood in the locker room heading into the match, Xavi said: “The veterans are very motivated. We have an exemplary dressing room, how they train, how they want to win… most of them already know how to win the Champions League, they already know the way.”

On returning to UCL quarterfinals and what it means

On what it means for the team to be at this stage after their struggles in the competition in the previous seasons, the manager remarked:

“It is a key moment. The word after four years without reaching the quarterfinals is excitement.

“I said it a fortnight ago, we can dream, we are very motivated, we are at the best moment of the season but we have a team ready to win the Champions League and one of the best coaches in the world.”

It will be his first-ever Champions League quarterfinal match as manager and Xavi insisted that he was looking forward to it, saying:

“I think it’s a challenge, it’s a responsibility and I’ve seen that Barcelona fans are very excited. Perhaps we are at the best moment of the season and the players are super-motivated.”

On being asked if there is added personal motivation to do well in the UCL, Xavi replied:

“I face it with motivation and as a great challenge, but not as something personal. I look at it for the club, for the players. I want Barça to be in the semi-final, not Xavi. This is about thinking about the collective, it’s not about ego.”

Stressing that the upcoming period was going to be crucial for the team, the Barcelona boss stated:

“Yes, of course, this is about results. We’re going to get a lot of praise for the result. The important part is coming, we have 2-3 very decisive weeks ahead of us. So yes.”

On Luis Enrique and Barça DNA

Earlier today, PSG boss Luis Enrique claimed that he represents the Barça style of playing better than Xavi. When asked for his take on that, the current Barcelona coach replied:

“I have seen him, well he is Luis Enrique. I have a great relationship with him. He has a team built to win the Champions League, we are facing a very difficult opponent and we are both looking for a similar style.

“We can boast the Barça DNA, Luis Enrique, Pep or Arteta. Tomorrow we’ll be looking for the same thing, from here on it’s up to the players to find the DNA that identifies us.”

There is a strong representation of the Barça DNA in the UCL quarterfinals with Xavi, Pep Guardiola, Mikel Arteta, and Luis Enrique all taking their teams to this stage.

“Arteta, Pep and myself have been created with this DNA. We are talking about a new batch of coaches who were midfielders and I think the Barça philosophy is key. I think it’s an advantage,” said Xavi, discussing the same.

“There are four managers in this stage of the Champions League that represent the Barça DNA. Pep Guardiola, Arteta, Luis Enrique and me. This says a lot about us,” he later added.

Xavi goes up against his former manager. (Photo by LLUIS GENE/AFP via Getty Images)

Xavi then took a walk down memory lane, opening up on his one season under the management of Luis Enrique at Barcelona in 2014/15.

“It was a difficult year at the beginning and then everything was straightened out in an incredible way. Also, knowing that it was my last year, I hoped it would end well and it ended up as a film, a treble and winning the Champions League as captain,” he said.

“I had an incredible relationship with Luis Enrique when he was the Barça coach, I think I helped him a lot as captain in difficult times. I remember it with pride.”

When further probed about Lucho and his comments from earlier in the day, Xavi stated: “I’ve already said that we are both looking for the same thing, maybe I’m better than him in some things, as he is better than me in some other things, but we are both looking for exactly the same thing. There is no more controversy.”

On Mbappe and Dembele

Kylian Mbappe will be the biggest threat from PSG to Barcelona and naturally Xavi was asked how he plans to stop the French superstar. But the Blaugrana head coach insisted that the Parisians had plenty of other quality players, saying:

“Yeah well Mbappé, Dembélé, Kolo Muani, Vitinha… and the whole squad. We have to be vigilant, we have to be brilliant in this aspect.”

On being asked if he plans to put a man-marker on Mbappe tomorrow, Xavi responded: “I don’t like it, it’s another thing to cover, to have numerical superiority… But I don’t like it.”

Xavi also opened up on the matter of Ousmane Dembele, who switched Barcelona for PSG last summer, saying:

“Dembele and I sent each other a message after the draw and said we would see each other in Paris. I have great respect for him, he decided to come here, it was a challenge for him and that’s why I think PSG are favourites. They took a great player away from us in the summer.”

The Barcelona boss then insisted that PSG are favourites heading into the game and that it is not a tactic from him to put his opponents under pressure, saying:

“To say that we are not favourites is not a strategy, I really think so. I think PSG are favourites, they have taken Dembélé away from us, they have spent a lot of money, more than us. They are a team made to win the Champions League.”

“I’ll say it again, PSG are favourites. They have Dembélé,” he again added.

Signing off, the Barcelona boss said: “We hope the fans will enjoy tomorrow.”

Source: Mundo Deportivo

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