Xavi talks Messi, Pedri, Frenkie, Gundogan, Cancelo ahead of Real Sociedad vs Barcelona

Barcelona head coach Xavi
Photo Courtesy: FC Barcelona’s Official Website

FC Barcelona will be looking to bounce back from their defeat to Real Madrid this Saturday as they face Real Sociedad in La Liga.

This will be an important match for Xavi, not only because of the four points with which Barcelona are trailing the league leaders Real Madrid and Girona but also to raise the spirits of the group after the last match and the comments from Gundogan in which he criticized the team.

One piece of good news for Xavi for this match would be the return of one of his most trusted midfielders, Pedri, from injury. However, Frenkie de Jong will unluckily not be available for this match, and will have to wait a while before he can return to action.

These returns from injuries were one of the recurring subjects in Xavi’s press conference that he undertook before the match against Real Sociedad.

In addition to the injuries, the Barcelona head coach also talked about the defeat in El Clasico, Gundogan’s comments after the defeat, the Ballon d’Or, and the match against Real Sociedad in particular.

The main highlights of the press conference are as follows:

Match against Real Sociedad

Xavi praised Real Sociedad particularly for their defence and spoke highly about their coach, but highlighted that his team will still have to give a strong performance after the defeat in their last match.

“We have a very tough opponent tomorrow. Real Sociedad is a Champions League-level rival. We have recovered several players, which is good news. We are ready to compete. It’s always challenging at Reale Arena. We need to reset to continue competing well, as we had done before the Clásico.”

“They are a Champions League-level rival, one of the best teams defensively. Imanol is one of the best coaches in the category. After the defeat against Madrid, the team has taken a step forward. We have to react and win the three points.”

Xavi picked out one of former La Masia youngsters, Take Kubo, as one of the most dangerous players for Real Sociedad:

“For me, he is one of the most exceptional players at Real Sociedad. He is in an extraordinary moment, and we will have to stop him. He is a top-level player.”

However, Xavi pleaded ignorance about the reasons why Kubo was unable to continue at Barcelona:

“I wasn’t at the club at that time. I don’t know the exact situation. Kubo has a very high level. I don’t know what happened back then.”

Xavi also recalled one of the more memorable Barcelona games in the Anoeta in 2015, in which he himself was a starter, in which the team came out as the losers:

“We lost 1-0, with an own goal by Jordi Alba. I was a starter and part of the debacle. The episode is well-known. At that time, we were in a bad situation, and the team reacted.”

Gundogan’s comments

Gundogan came with his guns blazing after the defeat against Real Madrid, and criticised the team for showing a lack of anger and leadership. His words have come as a shock at Barcelona, but Xavi held that the German was fully justified in making these comments:

“The word ‘complacency’ is not in Barça’s DNA. We strive for excellence. Gündo’s words weren’t controversial; we agree with what he said. We lost the Clásico due to our own mistakes. There’s no controversy in the locker room.”

“We are all angry. There’s no more debate, the matter is settled.”

Xavi went on to agree with Gundogan that the game against Real Madrid was lost because of the team’s own mistakes:

“We had the game under control. We lost it, but we had it in our hands. Details made us lose the game. Tomorrow is another test, and we have to pass it. We have time to learn; we are four points behind the leaders, but there’s time to recover.”

Pedri, Frenkie, and the dressing room

Pedri has at last made the squad for the game against Real Sociedad, but Xavi explained that his recovery was exactly according to schedule:

“His return hasn’t been delayed. He is at 100%. I see him prepared. It’s great news for the team.”

Xavi went on to highlight the importance of Pedri for the team:

“Everyone’s goal is to be in good physical shape. We work a lot on injury prevention. For me, he is a fundamental player. Hopefully, he can have continuity to prove his worth.”

While Pedri has recovered, Frenkie has not been a part of the squad for this game. Xavi explained the reason for this exclusion:

“It depends on his feelings. Pedri has good feelings, but Frenkie doesn’t yet. He tried, but he still feels pain.”

“Don’t look for complications where there are none. Injuries are progressing well, no worries. About 30% of the questions are about the injured players. Frenkie has bad feelings; he is in pain.”

Oriol Romeu is one of the players who has been under fire in recent weeks for his subpar performances. However, Xavi believed that the midfielder was doing fine, but his starters will entirely be determined on merit:

“I think he’s [Romeu] doing a good job, but there’s competition. It’s about performance. Whoever is in the best form will play. I see Oriol mentally prepared; he is a guy with a great attitude. He will continue to be important for the group.”

As already reported here, Joao Cancelo has been playing constantly since his arrival at Barcelona, and there are not many opportunities for him to get any rest. However, Xavi claimed that his team has enough resources to rely on even if Cancelo had to be rested:

“We have many alternatives. The other day, Araujo played. I see Cancelo well, and he’s a very strong player. There’s no significant risk of fatigue.”

Injured players are returning from their injures, but they will still need some time to get back to their best shape. Xavi updated on the situation of some of these players:

“Raphinha and Robert are in good spirits, at a hundred percent. It’s very good that the team has more alternatives. Except for Frenkie and Sergi, everyone is available. Better for me.”

As recently reported here, Bojan disclosed the message that he had given to Lamine Yamal in an interview. Xavi gave his feedback on Bojan’s advice to the youngster:

“I think Bojan’s message is very positive. It’s saying that we need to be cautious. We shouldn’t rush because he’s 16 years old. We have high expectations for him, but we shouldn’t hurry. Bojan’s role is very important for the club. We have to manage young players under pressure. For a grade? Well, he should pass.”

Overall, Xavi expressed his satisfaction with the health and attitude of the locker room:

“We have a very healthy and noble locker room. The attitude has never been lacking; I’m happy with everyone’s work and willingness. Maximum pressure is welcome. The team is hungry.”

Xavi was also asked whether it was fatigue that led to the loss against Real Madrid, but the head coach disagreed with such a perspective:

“It’s not fatigue. It’s more about disconnection and specific mistakes. Against Madrid, we had the game completely under control.”

Xavi’s feelings, Ballon d’Or

Despite the loss against Real Madrid and the loss of points, Xavi remained adamant that he is in the highest of spirits:

“I know there’s a lot of demand. I’m not angry at all; quite the opposite. I’m happy. In a season, there are ups and downs, and you have to manage them as a coach. I see the team very prepared to turn this situation around; there are many La Liga matchdays left. We have to keep working; I’m not upset, especially not with all of you.”

Xavi explained how he is compelled to pursue excellence in everything he does, simply because it was a part of his culture:

“This is Barça. It’s a cultural thing for Catalans; we always seek excellence. Many times, the opponent complicates things, and you’re not as inspired. Every week you have to prove it. You have to be mentally balanced. I convey everything except self-complacency; I demand a lot from myself. There are criticisms because it’s Barça. The coach of Barça is hardly liked by everyone.”

Xavi also did not put up any false pretenses about his job security, and admitted that he can be out of the job at any moment:

“It’s the life of a coach. It’s reality. Today we are here, and tomorrow we might not be. Coaches get sacked every week.”

One of Xavi’s former teammates, Messi, won the Ballon d’Or some days ago, while from the Women’s sector, the Barcelona star Aitana Bonmati won the highest award. Xavi believed both these awards were fully justified:

“In Spain, there’s controversy about everything. There’s no debate with Aitana. Aitana’s importance in the game is spectacular, with that unique DNA of ours. It’s a spectacle to watch her play. Leo’s achievement is well-deserved. Best player of the World Cup. He is the best in history. I spoke to him this week; he was very happy.”

Xavi himself has also been one of the finalists for the Ballon d’Or in 2010, and Xavi shared how he felt at that time:

“It’s a matter of voting. If people vote… That’s how it works. In 2010, the votes were very evenly distributed. There was Iniesta, Villa, Casillas, me… The votes were spread out. When Messi’s name came out of the envelope, it was justice. My feeling was that justice was done to the best footballer.”

Source: Mundo Deportivo

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