Barcelona go into tomorrow’s UEFA Champions League encounter against FC Porto aware that anything less than a win will ramp up pressure on the team.
Following the 1-1 draw vs Rayo Vallecano in La Liga this past Saturday, the pressure is on Xavi Hernandez & co., given the performances have been well below the desired level in recent weeks.
Even though Xavi’s job is understood to be safe, a negative result against Porto could turn up the heat on the Barcelona manager.
Form and performances
Discussing the importance of the game against Porto, Xavi called on the fans to support the team at Montjuic tomorrow, saying:
“For us, it’s a very important match, vital, we have our chances intact to finish top of the group. If we win, we’ll secure first place after two years without qualifying for the last 16.
“We’re looking forward to it, we’re expecting our fans, we need them more than ever and hopefully it will be a magical night.”
On the support from fans, he further added: “For us, the fans are fundamental. It’s a vital game for this competition, remember where we’ve come from in recent years, we’ve got a lot at stake and it’s very important that the fans are behind the team.”
There has been talk about Barcelona players not being clear about what Xavi is asking of them in the Spanish media.
Dismissing such notions, the manager said: “There is a connection between my plan and what the players convey. There are good days and bad days.
“In Vallecas we played a good game, we generated play, a more aggressive team in the second half. The approach is working but it’s not the game we want to play. We lack a lot of continuity, like in the 60 minutes of the Clásico. People are happy with the plan and there is no problem.”
Insisting on the team needing to be at it from the first minute, Xavi added: “A lot of things have to be said to the players, for the mentality as well.
“We have to go for the games from the first minute, that’s what we’re lacking, we only react when there’s an emergency, in the last few minutes. We have to react, it’s part of the process, we know the way, we have to compete and tomorrow could be a turning point, you have the chance to qualify in the fifth game as group winners.”
Claiming that Barça have not been helped by poor refereeing calls, Xavi added: “We haven’t been lucky with the refereeing, and that’s not an excuse. We have to play better. But that we’ve been harmed by refereeing mistakes, too. So far we haven’t been lucky.”
Pressure and future
Xavi also reassured that he feels the complete confidence of director Deco and president Joan Laporta.
“Yes, I feel supported by the club in every way. I talk every day with the president, who is in charge, and I feel total confidence, with Deco I feel total confidence, we have a friendship, they know how we work and I feel total confidence,” Xavi stated.
Speaking about what he is going through personally at the moment, he added: “I’m fine, I’m energised, I’m more positive than ever and I have to be because I’m the one leading this team and I believe a lot in the players.
“We’ve done it, we’ve won titles and I have blind faith in the players and the staff. Think about what we can control. Criticism is always there, it’s a reminder of what I experienced in the past as a footballer.”
“Fortunately I don’t feel alone, because I have the confidence of the president, of Deco, a staff that is faithful to my beliefs, they are also friends, apart from my brother, and apart from the players, things will work out and if not we will have tried.”
Discussing the pressure that comes with being in charge of a team of Barcelona’s stature, Xavi stated: “It’s the same as always, the pressure. You tell me that at every press conference. The results are going to determine the future of the season.
“In a month’s time, the Super Cup will come and you’ll say the same thing. It’s Barça and the pressure of being here. It doesn’t change anything, to plan the games well and make the players feel good. We have a lot at stake because it’s a very important game for this competition.”
Further discussing the criticism directed towards him and the team, he added: “There is always a crisis here, you always have to win. Every week you ask me if the good things are coming. There is always criticism, it’s normal, it’s accepted. Criticism can be used to improve, to be more forceful. This is Barça, Barça is maximum demand.”
Barcelona president Joan Laporta was present at Barça Atletic’s away game this past weekend and then went on to meet the players with manager Rafa Marquez.
It sparked speculations about Laporta thinking about replacing Xavi with the former Mexican international, which the former was quick to dismiss.
“Laporta’s photo with the reserve team is a sign that we are united. If you want, I’ll pass you the photo of every game with the president. There is no other interpretation. I have a good relationship with the president, with Márquez, with Deco, with everyone,” he said.
“There is a feeling of unity and normality and that the president does the same as with other teams like the women’s team.”
On the team and injuries
Addressing what needs to change, Xavi insisted that the team, as a whole, needs to be more focused and cut out leaking goals, as he said:
“We have to change the mentality and know that we have to go in more involved and more focused. We’ve conceded a lot of goals this season. Last year we didn’t give anything away and that’s why we got better results.”
“I am very critical of the players, we have to demand a lot of ourselves and be self-critical because we are not at the level we were a month and a half or two ago. We need to push harder, get back to high pressure and a winning mentality,” he further added.
On facing Porto, he added: “A lot of things happened to us in Porto, Porto dominated us in the last half hour and tomorrow is a very strong test.”
Xavi provided an update on the fitness of Marc-Andre ter Stegen, stating that a call on his availability will be taken only tomorrow.
“Tomorrow Ter Stegen will be tested, let’s see how sore he is. He hasn’t trained practically with the group but he’s always there to help, he’s one of the captains and tomorrow he’ll be tested to see if he’s ready for the game,” the manager claimed.
Commenting on the squad, he added: “We have a complete squad to compete. Then we’ll see the results at the end of the season, but I think we have enough squad to win games like tomorrow’s.”
Calling the team to build a habit of winning, Xavi added: “The most difficult thing in sport is to win after having won. That’s why individual sportsmen and women who don’t stop winning and who are in a habit of winning, I admire them tremendously. We have won but we have to win again and be a competitive animal.”
Source: Mundo Deportivo