Barcelona will be raring to bounce back strongly after just about managing to scrape away with a 2-2 draw against Mallorca, when they face Sevilla on Friday night.
After the trip to Son Moix on Tuesday, the Blaugrana will be back at home comforts in Montjuic.
The Catalan giants will be aiming to grab all three points and reclaim the top spot in the La Liga table, especially with the current top-two – Girona and Real Madrid – set to face each other this weekend.
Looking ahead to the game against Sevilla, Xavi paid his respects to the opposition, saying: “Sevilla are Europa League champions, Mendilibar is doing a great job, difficult match.”
The manager then opened up on Barcelona’s breakout star of the season Lamine Yamal and explained how the 16-year-old needs to be shielded from possible burnout.
“He is 16 years old and sometimes it shows. You can’t just play with the ball. You have to follow the full-back… That’s why I think he needs to be protected. He’s doing very well. Naturally. The problem is the physical burden. He’s a happy boy,” he said.
On whether Yamal’s breakthrough resembles that of Lionel Messi almost a couple of decades ago, Xavi said:
“They are good examples, Rijkaard’s management with Leo. He had injuries at the beginning. We have to be cautious with Lamine. He will help us.”
On the mentality of Yamal, the Barça boss said: “We treat him like someone who is 16 years old, who is in training. We are very close to him. We see him well when he’s in training. He’ll be up against [Sergio] Ramos or [Jesus] Navas, competitive animals at 36.”
Praising the youngster’s 1v1 abilities, he added: “He’s got the ability in one-on-one situations, you have to look for him. As with Dembélé, with Messi… we must get the ball to him. We have to make the most of it and give this type of player a boost.”
Talking about the aspects of the team that need to be worked upon, Xavi highlighted the defensive area, saying:
“We have to be more focused. It’s not true that it’s hard for us to play against five-man defences. We create a lot. We’re lacking in defence. In attack, we have improved. We have to improve defensively to win titles.”
Talking about the team’s transition from defence, he added that there needs to be more patience and the players must allow the play to develop, saying:
“We lose the duel, the second ball, sometimes we attack early. We lack patience, we don’t develop the play, that causes unnecessary losses. We’ve talked about it. We have to correct and adjust.”
On whether the Mallorca result was because of the rotations, Xavi said: “We analyse the physical side and in Europe there are a lot of injuries in many teams. We didn’t draw in Mallorca because of rotation. They’re necessary.”
The manager then discussed Barcelona’s local rivals Girona who are currently the leaders of La Liga and praised them, saying:
“I’m not surprised. They’ve been working for years on a project with a very clear model of play, with Michel doing a spectacular job. It has a lot of merit.”
“We have Pablo and Eric on loan at Girona, and the latter also scored a goal,” he added.
The Barcelona manager then touched upon the team taking more risks and trying to score from outside the box, saying:
“It’s a very good alternative to make the defence less relaxed. There are players who can shoot from distance, Raphinha is an extraordinary shooter. You have to be daring.”
Of late, there has been a lot of noise from Real Madrid, who have been using their RMTV broadcast to point out alleged mistakes from match officials and put pressure on them.
When asked for his opinion on the matter, Xavi replied: “I’m not going to comment on Real Madrid TV, what with all the rest. We are Barça, I don’t have anything to say.”
Furthermore, there have been fresh developments in the Negreira case today, with Barcelona being reportedly charged with suspected bribery.
Xavi, though, did not delve into the matter, as he said: “You know my opinion. I have never had the feeling that it has benefited us, never. A week from now there will be another piece of news, a month from now another one….”
“I have little time to reflect on things other than football. Not on these issues.”
Reports earlier today were floating around about Xavi asking Fermin Lopez not to play with Barça Atletic this past weekend.
Shedding light on the 20-year-old’s situation with the first team and the reserves, the manager said: “In Mallorca, we played on Tuesday and after Frenkie’s injury we needed him. Beyond the goal, he’s very useful, he’s dynamic.”
In the next two matches, Barcelona will encounter two Real Madrid legends with Sergio Ramos playing for Sevilla and Pepe for FC Porto.
When asked if coming up against them will be a problem, Xavi replied: “There will be no problem, I’m not afraid of anything.”
The manager also spoke about the improvement that Raphinha had shown recently after his sending-off in the opening game against Getafe, as he said:
“His is the ideal reaction after his mistake in Getafe. He knows that. He is very intelligent, unselfish and involved. It’s the same story as with Ferran, he deserves to play. He can make a difference.”
Source: Mundo Deportivo