Xavi talks De Jong, Pedri, Lewandowski ahead of Napoli vs Barcelona

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Barcelona's Spanish coach Xavi attends a press conference on the eve of the UEFA Champions League last 16 first leg football match between Napoli and Barcelona at the Diego Armando Maradona stadium on February 20, 2024.
Photo by CARLO HERMANN/AFP via Getty Images

FC Barcelona and Xavi have a crucial match awaiting them as they face Napoli in the Champions League Round of 16. The match tomorrow will be a special event for the Culers as the Catalan club returns to the knock-out rounds of the premier European tournament after a wait of more than two years.

Getting past the Round of 16 is one of the goals for Xavi after Barcelona reviewed their objectives for this season some weeks ago. Thus, the Barcelona head coach will be looking to get a result in this match to get an advantage in the second leg of the tie.

The gaffer spoke to the media ahead of this match, and addressed several questions relating to the state of affairs at Barcelona, his future, and his team. The main highlights of this presser are as follows:

Minutes before Xavi took the mics, the midfielder Frenkie de Jong severely criticized the media for projecting falsehoods about him. Xavi completely understood his player’s position, and reiterated his importance in the team:

“I understand Frenkie perfectly, any player suffers injustices. For me, he is fundamental, I think he is a player for many years. He is a key player”

Xavi was not concerned too much with the tactics and strategy that Napoli will be using in the match tomorrow night:

“Tomorrow we will see what tactic they use. We are seeing how they can play, and what formation they will use… But the formation is not important, regardless of the opposing team, what matters is that we are well.”

The Barcelona coach was sure his key players will show up for this match, despite the team not having played in the knock-out rounds for the last two years:

“For Lewandowski, for Frenkie, for Pedri… it’s a perfect stage to show your talent and personality… For me too as a coach. Robert is a leader, he has shown again what he is.”

Xavi admitted that Napoli are not coming into this match at the best of times, but was also clear that anything can happen and his team will make their arguments on the pitch:

“It’s 50/50, they are teams that in some way have come from winning. It hasn’t been the best season for Napoli, we have been irregular. No matter how much we talk, we should talk tomorrow at nine, we have to talk on the field. It’s time to talk on the field.”

“For us, it means excitement, hope, and motivation to reach the quarter-finals. I think it’s the biggest competition at club level. It’s the ideal and perfect stage to show what we know. Napoli has changed the coach surprisingly, but he is a coach who knows the club.”

“It’s not easy for us because we won’t know how the match will turn out with the change of coach. We are facing the Scudetto champion.”

The Barcelona coach was also sure this is not a key moment for the team, which had already gotten over several challenges this season:

“It was also Porto’s field, against Shakhtar. If we make it to the quarter-finals, it will also be. Tomorrow that will be the goal. Tomorrow we have to compete and enjoy. Maybe the club’s pending subject in recent years has been the Champions League, we’ll see if we can compete well.”

The former midfielder also played down the possibility of him feeling any extra pressure because of his announcement of leaving the club at the end of the season:

“I will experience it the same as if I hadn’t announced anything. I am very motivated, and nothing changes. To prepare for it in the best possible way. The pressure is the same, that of being at Barça,”

Xavi was particularly wary about the dangerous attackers that Napoli have in their fold:

“For us, they are a very strong rival, especially with the three forwards. For us, it is fundamental to defend well, to be vigilant, not to allow counterattacks… it is difficult to stop those players.”

The Barcelona gaffer was adamant to remain true to his style and identity in this game: “We have to be a bit more cautious, prepare the match in the best possible way knowing that there are 90 more minutes at Montjuïc. But we will continue with our identity. It will be complicated.”

Xavi also confirmed that the club’s goal in the Champions League for now is to advance to the quarterfinals:

“The goal is not to think beyond. The main goal is to be in the Quarter-finals. The team has come together more, the reaction has been very good, from the President, from Deco… I’m happy with how we are in the locker room.”

Continuing to talk about Frenkie’s presser, Xavi admitted that while the team also has to perform better, the media is being unfair to the players:

“We don’t blame the press for the results, but it is true that you feel injustices because sometimes they tell things that are not true. In this sense, the players keep that inside. But we have to play better, and compete better. We understand that, but there are other things that are unfair.”

Assessing the team’s chances in this tie, Xavi believed both sides are evenly matched: “It will be very evenly matched. We will compete in it, I think it will be 50%.”

Irrespective of the objectives, the coach claimed that his team will be looking to win just because this is the norm at Barcelona:

“It depends on how the match goes. We will go to win, as always. We go out to win, we are Barça, and drawing at Barça is not a good result. We will go out like that, then depending on the circumstances we will see if it is a good result or not. But we have to consider that we have a match at home and that they will have to visit Montjuïc.”

Lastly, Xavi claimed that he did not believe that the match tomorrow can put his future at stake: “I don’t feel like my future is at stake now. I have immense enthusiasm and motivation.”

Source: Mundo Deportivo

Ahmad Sarmad Ansari
Ahmad Sarmad Ansari
Ahmad Sarmad Ansari has been covering Spanish football as a writer for Barca News Network for the last one and a half year and as an amateur football fanatic for more than 10 years. He mainly covers on and off-field happenings taking place at Barcelona including transfer news, administrative changes, match reports, and any other eventful news coming out of the club.

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