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Xavi talks Pedri, de Jong, Raphinha, Lamine, Roque, Faye, Kounde ahead of Cadiz vs Barcelona



Photo by PAU BARRENA/AFP via Getty Images

Following their midweek win against PSG, Barcelona will be eager to extend their unbeaten run when they lock horns with Cadiz in La Liga on Saturday night.

The morale will be sky-high within the Barcelona camp following the victory in Paris and Xavi Hernandez & co. will be eager to build on it with another win so as to put pressure on Real Madrid in the La Liga title race.

A misstep against Cadiz could spell an end to the Catalans’ ambitions in the league and that is something that is not lost on manager Xavi Hernandez.

“It’s vital for us: La Liga could be over if we don’t win. We have to be very committed so that we don’t throw in the towel. If we fail to win the clásico it will be of little use. It’s a key day,” said the Barcelona manager in his press conference today.

Real Madrid are scheduled to play Mallorca in La Liga tomorrow, a couple of hours before Barcelona’s game. And Xavi was asked if his plans for the Cadiz game could change based on what happens with Los Blancos.

“No, it won’t change anything. What worries me are the niggles and the fatigue. But we’ll put together a team to win: we have to put the Champions League to one side and focus on La Liga,” he said in response.

“It’s important to win to have chances in La Liga. To have a chance of getting within five points of Madrid if we win the clásico. But if we don’t manage it, we’d almost be saying goodbye to La Liga,” Xavi added.

While announcing his decision to leave Barcelona back in January, Xavi had stated that he was not enjoying the day-to-day as much as he used to. When asked if that had changed now, he replied:

“Yes, in many moments yes, but before it also happened to me. Now there is more tranquillity in the environment, the club too, knowing that there is an expiry date. We have all gained peace of mind: that’s why we are where we are.”

On how he plans on managing the minutes of Pedri and Frenkie de Jong, who have just returned from injury, Xavi said:

“Talking to them: each case is different. It depends on the type of injury, one muscular, one more traumatic. But we have to achieve the same level of activity as in the Champions League. We will decide tomorrow but it will be a competitive eleven.”

Discussing how it was important for him and the team to stay level-headed amidst the euphoria after the PSG win, Xavi remarked:

“In the same way that when there is criticism we have to pull up, so now we have to pull down a little bit. I said that the word was illusion but we are in the same situation as before the Paris game.

“We are not qualified. But I understand the euphoria: it’s better to live like that than with pessimism.”

On what has changed in the team for the performances to have improved so drastically in the last two months, the manager said:

“In the same way as before: nothing has changed. The team simply believes in it, the dynamic has changed, the results are coming out.”

When quizzed if he was surprised by the reaction of the team since he announced his decision to leave, Xavi replied:

“I was not surprised. After the decision it was clear to me that we would go up. I told the president: I looked after the club. Otherwise, at this stage, we wouldn’t be competing.”

At the same time, Xavi insisted that there is no changing his decision, despite reports suggesting that there was optimism about the situation.

“You know the one I didn’t see coming, now the assumptions are positive. Those of the majority, the fact of changing the dynamic is this. But already on the day of the decision, the assumption of everybody else was already positive… and the decision is not going to change,” he said.

Xavi will not change his mind on his future. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

With Robert Lewandowski ruled out against Cadiz through suspension, Vitor Roque is in line to get some minutes tomorrow night. And the manager touched on the Brazilian forward, saying:

“We’ve prepared a video for him for tomorrow, he’s a player who can give us a lot of things. Tomorrow he will surely have minutes: we have to take advantage of the way he can kick in space and try to get him to understand the positional play.”

Xavi also insisted that another youngster, Mika Faye, is ready to play for the first team, saying: “Yes, he is ready. Faye, Casado and more players who can participate. But I see him ready to play for us.”

Commenting on the controversial comments made by Mono Burgos towards Lamine Yamal this week, Xavi said:

“You said it: disgusting and condemnable. He [Lamine] is fine. He’s happy. There’s no need to talk about it any more.”

On whether there is a chance of Ilkay Gundogan being rested against Cadiz, the manager stated: “Yes, we want to rest him but it’s not easy. He’s playing spectacularly, we’ll see tomorrow, he’s not a teenager.”

Xavi also made a major statement on the future of Ronald Araujo, claiming: “As for Araujo, he’s very important, I don’t see him anywhere else.”

Discussing the improvement shown by Raphinha in recent months, he remarked: “He’s an intense player, with a lot of pace and depth, one of the best in the world at cutting into space.”

Regarding the improvement in the physical aspects of the team, Xavi added: “And the physical recovery comes from the fact that we’ve had more time to train. Against PSG we covered more metres than Luis Enrique’s team.”

The Barcelona boss also praised Jules Kounde for his performance against PSG, marking out Kylian Mbappe on the night, saying:

“Jules, I’m delighted. He’s almost a personal signing of mine. He is one of the best defenders in the world: he has many virtues. Jules was very much to credit but it was a collective effort: Ronald, Sergi Roberto, Lamine, everyone helped with Mbappe.”

On whether Kounde’s future going forward is at right-back, Xavi said: “He is a Barça defender. And he has to watch, win duels, press at the right time: it doesn’t matter if it’s this position or the other and that has been clear all the time.”

Pau Cubarsi’s introduction into the senior team has coincided with a strong improvement in the defensive performances. When asked about the youngster’s influence behind that, Xavi said:

“It comes down to collective work. We have improved in the facets of the group and from there we improve individually. The line is higher: Iñigo shines more, Lewy…. is the other way around: the improvement comes from the collective.”

Before signing off, Xavi was asked if he felt vindicated by the substitutions he made in the game against PSG, to which he replied:

“I don’t win the games: it’s the players. The action is Pedri’s. Victory does not belong to the coach. Football belongs to the players.”

Source: SPORT

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