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Xavi talks Romeu, Lewandowski, Gundogan, Deco, Laporta, future after Royal Antwerp 3-2 Barcelona



Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Barcelona suffered a shocking 2-3 defeat at the hands of Royal Antwerp in their final group stage match of the UEFA Champions League and despite finishing at the top of the table, Xavi has affirmed that this kind of performance warrants heavy self-criticism.

Xavi made several changes to his starting XI that took the field in Belgium last night, with the likes of Joao Cancelo, Pedri, Ilkay Gundogan and Joao Felix all demoted to the bench.

Speaking after the match, the manager reflected on his team’s performance, saying that although he is happy that the team qualified for the knockouts, the team is indeed going through a bad phase,

“Feelings are not good. We have to criticize ourselves, but the first goal was to qualify for the second round and it was achieved. I’m happy that we qualified in the first place,” said Xavi as quoted by Mundo Deportivo.

“We have to think about where we come from and be happy today, even if it wasn’t a good night.”

“We are going through a bad phase but the most important thing is that we came 1st in the group. We have to be critical and try to improve. We are not on a good streak but this continues. We have not been good,” he added.

Xavi’s take on Oriol Romeu

Xavi made strategic changes to his lineup, granting starting positions to Oriol Romeu, Hector Fort, and Sergi Roberto.

However, Romeu emerged as the primary offender with two critical mistakes that resulted in goals. The Spanish midfielder, acquired from Girona during the summer, faced significant criticism from fans due to his subpar performance in the game, but Xavi stuck to his defensive midfielder.

“I do not like to say something bad publicly about the level of individual players, this matter remains internal. But they should have more confidence. Individual errors cost us goals.”

“We have to give confidence to Oriol Romeu. The season started well, but today was not Oriol’s night, like the whole team, but he has the level.”

Oriol Romeu made two errors leading to goal. (Photo by JOHN THYS/AFP via Getty Images)

“I’m worried, that’s normal. The team is not comfortable and we are coming off two losses. We have to improve and criticize ourselves. We receive a lot of chances and struggle to create chances.”

The board is behind Xavi

Wednesday’s performance cast a shadow of doubt over Xavi’s continuity and although it is being stated that the board will continue to trust the former midfielder, internal work must start if they are to replace him.

Xavi, however, affirmed that the likes of Joan Laporta and Deco still have confidence in him.

“We have to be self-critical, but we are alive. We have to think about where we came from. I think we are much better mentally than last year.”

“I consider myself capable of turning the situation around. We have 4 titles at stake and I am positive. Nothing has changed. I am confident that the team will improve. Trust me. Laporta and Deco have confidence in me.”

“It is not a matter of trust, the system gives a lot of confidence, but it is a matter of inspiration. Sometimes wearing a Barcelona shirt can be heavy.”

“Today we spent two hours talking with Deco and President Laporta. There is no problem inside. I’m fine, positive. It is not that I am in a bad situation.”

Xavi wants a reaction on Saturday

Xavi wants his players to win on Saturday against Valencia (Photo by AXEL HEIMKEN/AFP via Getty Images)

The manager also explained his squad selection, saying that veteran players like Roberto Lewandowski and Ilkay Gundogan all asked him to be in the travelling squad. The selection in the starting XI, however, was his decision.

“The decision on the squad list was by mutual consent. Lewandowski and Gundogan told me that they were fine and wanted to stay in the team. The decision was on our part, we are the club,” he added. 

Lastly, the manager asked his players to respond to this defeat by winning on Saturday when they visit Valencia in La Liga.

“The defeat that hurts us is the one on Sunday in Girona, not the one… We are in the round of 16 of the UCL after two years.”

“All this will change by winning on Saturday in Valencia. The bad feelings may be on the outside, but nothing on the inside. From inside the club, we are all fine.”

“We have a final on Saturday, against Valencia,” he explained.

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