Xavi talks Felix, Ter Stegen, Cancelo, Romeu, Balde, ahead of Barcelona vs Atletico Madrid

Xavi Hernandez during the press conference prior to the league match against Real Madrid, in Barcelona, on 27th October 2023.
Photo by Joan Valls/Urbanandsport /NurPhoto via Getty Images

FC Barcelona have a very important match in La Liga scheduled for this weekend in which they will be facing their fellow title contenders, Atletico Madrid.

The Catalans drew the last La Liga match against Rayo Vallecano, and winning this match will be essential for the Blaugranes so they do not fall further behind the league leaders, Real Madrid and Girona.

Still, Barcelona will come into this match with high spirits, as they progressed to the knock-out rounds of the UEFA Champions League after a gap of two years, with a victory over Porto on Tuesday. But Atletico are also flying high, and have the same number of points as Barcelona in the league, while also having a match in hand.

Xavi spoke to the press ahead of this important match, and answered journalists’ questions regarding several topics related to the club.

The Barcelona head coach discussed a number of players, including Felix, Balde, Ter Stegen, Romeu, Cancelo, etc. in this presser, and also talked about Laporta’s continued trust in himself. The main highlights of the presser are as follows:

Xavi began his press conference by highlighting the role that fans can play in helping the team get over Atletico Madrid, something that Lewandowski has already highlighted earlier in his comments:

“We need the fans, it’s an important match. One of the keys is to dominate the game. The fans were at their best against Porto, and we need them to support us until the end.”

Xavi also commended his Atletico Madrid counterpart, Diego Simeone, for what he has achieved with the Madrid club in his career:

“From Atletico, I would highlight the coach. For what he has done, and what he has achieved with his style. He has changed the history of the club in the last 15 years. He has adapted to the players. They press high, a united team, but also in a low block. This is Cholo’s greatness, that everyone is committed. My admiration.”

The head coach also highlighted that three points would be essential in this match, but even if Barcelona was unable to get a win, there would still be enough time for Barcelona to make up the loss later in the campaign:

“If we don’t win, they would just be points, but the League is long. Whether we win or not, there’s time. We have to be positive and think we can win. The Porto game was very good, not excellent, but the second half was very good.”

Xavi also had a plan in his mind by which he could get the better of these tough opponents:

“We can dominate the game with the ball. Superiority from within…”

Joao Felix has been subject to comments from several Atletico Madrid players and officials. Xavi responded to Simeone’s recent comments on the Portugues, and also highlighted his importance for the team in this match:

“Of course, what has been said is a blow to Joao, but it’s not my concern. I haven’t been at Atletico. The one we’ve seen here is dynamic, hardworking, people like him… I have no complaints.”

“I encourage him, motivate him, it’s an extra motivation playing against Atleti. He’s happy, he contributes a lot to us. I’m happy with his adaptation.”

Ter Stegen was also ruled out of this match against Atletico Madrid:

“He tried, but he has a discomfort. He’s ruled out for tomorrow. We’ll see next week. He’s sad about not being able to play. He’s ruled out for tomorrow.”

Xavi was not too revealing on whether Balde will play in this match:

“He had a good game against Rayo. He’ll be important, regardless of whether Cancelo plays. Like Marcos Alonso.”

Pedri has recently returned from a long injury, and played the matches against Rayo Vallecano and Porto. Xavi commented on his performance in this presser:

“He had a good game, brought pause and criteria. He ran the most, worked hard in pressing. He helps us a lot with and without the ball. He’s returned well, and I’m happy.”

Lewandowski’s performance in this match will be key for Barcelona, and praised the Pole for his skills as a forward:

“He’s a machine, always working, training better every day. He’s a robot, training, training, training… He will score goals. He’s our top scorer, he will make a difference. What we need to do is create more chances for him. I’m not worried. He scored two goals in the last two games. We need to provide him with more opportunities. Look for him more. Prepare the team more so that he can finish.”

Oriol Romeu is one Barcelona player that has suffered from significant criticism in the last few months. However, Xavi believed the veteran midfielder can still contribute significantly to the team:

“He’s a veteran guy in big clubs who handles pressure well. It seems like he’s under scrutiny, but that’s not the case. He will be important for the group. He will surely help us. I don’t think the Busquets benchmark will affect him. He had a good game in Vallecas. He always contributes whether playing from the start or coming on later.”

Ronald Araujo is expected to play as a right-back in this game, and Xavi commented on playing Araujo as a fullback:

“The problem lies with the national team coaches. Some still play as center-backs. They play where the coach tells them to. They adapt to the group and to the wing position. Here, they play as center-backs, even if they can move to the wing. There’s no debate. I’ve had conversations. They adapt to the group. They’re natural center-backs who can adapt to the wing.”

Joao Cancelo has been playing higher up on the pitch than his usual right-back position. The Barcelona head coach remained cautious while answering where Cancelo will play in this match:

“An alternative to playing on the left. It’s positive for the coach and the team. It’s a very good option. He has a one-on-one shot. Players like Sergi Roberto, Cancelo, Balde, Araujo, Koundé… offer many options, which is very positive. We saw an extraordinary Cancelo on his weaker foot because he can shoot, break… He’s a very good player.”

Vitor Roque is expected to join up with the squad in the upcoming winter window, and Xavi also commented on his possible arrival:

“I believe in the squad. I’m talking daily. His potential arrival would be important and interesting for the group. It’s still early. I hope he comes.”

Antione Griezmann and Alvaro Morata are two Atletico Madrid players who can hurt Barcelona, and Xavi praised both of them in this presser:

“I spoke to him [Morata] directly. There was a chance for him to come to Barça. He’s a very interesting player. He attacks spaces, he’s generous and hardworking. Tomorrow, the attacking line is very good: Morata and Griezmann are world-class references.”

“I don’t know why he [Griezmann] didn’t succeed, I haven’t been his teammate. He seems like a capable footballer, making a lot of difference at Atletico. He’s exceptional and works a lot for the team.”

While some pressure on Xavi has been released with the win over Porto, Xavi once again made it clear that he always feels the confidence of Laporta:

“He encourages us. He comes often. He shows confidence in the project. He’s always positive, in a good mood.”

“He comes several times. I didn’t feel like my job was on the line. I have total confidence from the president and Deco. I have a good relationship. I have faith in this project. I think it could be a good season. I didn’t feel like I had three strikes against me.”

As has usually been the case in several recent pressers, Xavi once again gave his opinion on whether results or performance matters more:

“They go hand in hand. The team has had a drop in performance, and that’s why the results haven’t come. We have to be more consistent in our game. And more effective in the execution. We can’t say we’re in the best moment. We’ve had good minutes, but we need to improve, and that’s when good results will come.”

Xavi also recalled the match against Porto, which Barcelona won to advance to the next round of the tournament:

“Happy with how the match against Porto went. We trained well. The team is prepared to compete.”

The Barcelona head coach also admitted that there will be pressure on the team, but the dynamics are good also for the upcoming match against Girona.

“Beating Porto and Atletico would be good momentum until the Girona game. We have a game against a Champions League team. Until the next one. This is Barça. There’s maximum pressure. That’s what you demand, the environment.”

Source: Mundo Deportivo

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