Xavi talks Pedri, Cancelo, Araujo, ahead of Shakhtar vs Barcelona

Barcelona's Spanish coach Xavi addresses a press conference in Hamburg, northern Germany on November 6, 2023, on the eve of the UEFA Champions League Group H football match against FC Shakhtar Donetsk.
Photo by AXEL HEIMKEN/AFP via Getty Images

FC Barcelona came out with a victory against Real Sociedad in their last match in La Liga, and now, with their spirits significantly heightened, the Catalans will resume their UEFA Champions League journey. The team has traveled to Germany, where they will face the Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk, as playing in Ukraine is still not possible.

FC Barcelona are once again the favorites in this match, but this match is expected to be more of a challenge than the reverse fixture played two weeks ago, as the Catalans will not be playing in their own stadium this time.

However, Xavi’s men now have some important starters back available, and their presence can definitely give a boost to the team.

Xavi has already given his customary press conference ahead of the match tomorrow night, and at this event, the Barcelona head coach talked about different aspects of the match, including the match against Real Sociedad, objectives in the Champions League, criticisms he is facing, etc. The main highlights of the presser are as follows:

Match against Real Sociedad, Injuries, Champions League objectives

Xavi analysed the match against Real Sociedad in which Barcelona were largely unconvincing despite coming out as the victors in the end:

“We always analyze what happened both football-wise and non-football-wise. We lacked certain things due to the intensity we lacked and the superiority Real showed. We need to have more control over the game, and that comes from applying a higher, more aggressive high press, even though Real is a great team.”

“In the end, we had faith. The first half wasn’t acceptable, but even without being in top form, we reduced the gap with Madrid and Atlético, and that should be a turning point.”

Xavi highlighted several matches in which he believed his team played really well, and was confident that Barcelona can get back to their best in the match tomorrow:

“Betis and Antwerp? Well, there have been matches like those against Athletic and Sevilla not too long ago. We need to recover that level. We are self-critical. We want to impose our identity starting from tomorrow. It’s essential to regain our confidence and win matches.”

Pedri returned to the squad after a significant time in the Real Sociedad match, and also got some minutes on the pitch. Xavi was hopeful that the return of Pedri and other players will help the team get the full points against Shakhtar Donetsk:

“We will surely notice the improvement. Pedri, Robert, Jules, and Rafa are vital for the team beyond their footballing abilities. We’ve been getting through the matches as best as we can. If we’re honest, against Real, our game wasn’t good, but against Madrid, it was, also against Athletic and Sevilla. Not the entire match against Shakhtar, but surely with the return of these players, we will improve.”

Xavi then went on to praise Pedri and also responded to recent comments made by the defender Pau Torres in which he had claimed that Barcelona’s excessive usage of Pedri had resulted in all these injuries for the midfielder:

“I also enjoy watching him play. Yes, when I see him on the field, everything improves when he touches the ball, and everyone becomes clear. Pedri has enjoyed a lot with us, and scored many goals, but injuries have prevented him from doing so consistently. I think this is what Pau Torres meant.”

Barcelona have already won their last three matches in the Champions League group stage, and thus the team is getting extremely near to its objective of getting to the knock-out round of the tournament. However, Xavi wanted his team to also top the group in this press conference:

“We’ve done our homework. Nine out of nine so far, is an ideal record, but we need to confirm it. The objective, as I’ve said before, is to reach the Round of 16, and the second goal is to top the group. It’s within our grasp, and tomorrow is a very good opportunity.”

Life as Barcelona coach, results or playing style, leaving it late

Today, Xavi has completed his two years as a Barcelona coach, and at this press conference, he recalled how he had to takeover the club at a very difficult time:

“We have been achieving the objectives set by our staff and the club. We arrived at a difficult moment in terms of numbers and standings. We saved the season. In the second year, we won two titles and played well.”

“Now, we aim for excellence. We are halfway there to restore a great Barça. The summary is positive. I am content and happy, but we are halfway to total success, which is a prominent Barça in Europe and continued competition in domestic competitions.”

However, Xavi once again highlighted that constant criticism is a part of the job for any Barcelona coach:

“At Barça, there will always be different opinions. It’s the environment we have, and we must analyze what happened and be honest with the players. We conducted the analysis. Without a great performance, we collected three points, and we must accept criticism because it’s normal when you don’t play well.”

“There was a turning point when we won the Spanish Supercup against Madrid with good gameplay. It was crucial for the players to believe in themselves.”

One reason why Xavi has been criticised during his time at Barcelona is because of the way that his team plays even when results are coming. However, Xavi reassured that he wants his team to dominate the game and not just grind out results:

“That’s not the goal. What we need to achieve is to dominate the game like in the Clásico when we performed well. But we can’t just focus on the result there. We need to maintain consistency. The objective is to play well and win.”

Further commenting on this debate, Xavi explained that the ultimate choice depends on the opponents his team is facing at a particular time:

“Connecting these things is the ideal scenario, but we know it won’t happen in every match. We want to play excellent football and win by a large margin. That’s the movie we want, but it won’t always happen.”

“There’s an opponent, and we must find the formula. It won’t happen every time. It’s a process, and it will be difficult. From that ideal scenario, we will achieve things. We must remain humble and patient. There are very good moments in the game and results, and we must continue working on that path.”

As already reported here, Barcelona have got as many as 12 points this season from goals scored after the 80th minute. Xavi commended his team’s mentality to keep fighting to get a result in this presser:

“The mentality has been very good since we took over the team. In the first season, we lacked football, but in the second, we found it. I think we’ve been getting through matches based on faith. We have a team with enthusiasm and a winning mentality.”

Cancelo has been playing ahead of his natural position at the right flank for the last two matches. However, Xavi informed that the Portuguese will soon return to his natural position

“Cancelo will return to his natural position. He will play 80% as a full-back, either on the right or left. The decision to move him was because we wanted to tighten up defensively against Real Sociedad and Madrid when we wanted three center-backs behind. He will return to his natural position as soon as possible. That’s where he feels best, and as a coach, it’s my preference.”

Source: Mundo Deportivo

The Latest

Barcelona captain shares reasons for his decision to go through surgery

For FC Barcelona, the current season has been filled with injuries and physical problems. The club has already seen important players like Araujo, Kounde,...

Barcelona captain might miss first leg of UCL Round of 16 as he decides on his recovery method

How Marc Andre Ter Stegen goes ahead with his recovery is one of the most intriguing questions coming out of FC Barcelona right now. The...

Simeone’s quip on Xavi’s protest elicits smiles amid Barcelona versus Atletico

In a clash filled with fervor and undeniable intensity, FC Barcelona emerged victorious once again against Atlético Madrid in a match that witnessed Joao...

Barcelona eyeing financial boost amid Aston Villa’s interest in former winger

One of the transfers that kept FC Barcelona fans gripped throughout the last summer transfer window was that of the winger Ez Abde. The Moroccan...

Xavi’s Barcelona follow the footsteps of former treble-winning dream team – report

Many of the greatest coaches of the past generations have managed Barcelona at some point. Johan Cruyff, Pep Guardiola, and Luis Enrique are just...

Swedish youngster gains the attention of FC Barcelona – Romano

The hunt to find new prodigious talents never seems to stop for FC Barcelona. While the Catalan giants have their own academy, La Masia,...

€60 million-rared Barcelona star shines with class in makeshift role against Atletico Madrid

Versatility is an asset that players of FC Barcelona are expected to possess and have a good grasp over. Xavi’s side is known for...

Dynamic midfield trio helps revitalize Barcelona against Atletico Madrid

FC Barcelona have always been known to have a particular style of play. However, this season they began to overthink things and as a...

Barcelona defender suffers hamstring injury, out for 4 weeks – report

Struggles continue to remain constant for FC Barcelona. Just as they were beginning to find rhythm and form, it seems that Barcelona were due...