Xavi talks Pedri, Fati, Imanol, Zubimendi ahead of Barcelona vs Real Sociedad

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Barcelona's Spanish coach Xavi addresses a press conference at the Joan Gamper training ground in Sant Joan Despi, near Barcelona, on January 30, 2024.
Photo by PAU BARRENA/AFP via Getty Images

Although FC Barcelona have already missed out on the league title for this season, their La Liga campaign is not yet over, and there is a significant prize still there for the taking, i.e., a second-place finish and qualification for the Spanish Super Cup.

The Blaugranes have the chance to claim this second spot tomorrow night as Girona drew their last match, and a win will put Barcelona one point ahead of their Catalan rivals.

Thus, Xavi will have to put in a highly competitive team on the pitch for this match, especially as they have another tough opponent awaiting them, Real Sociedad.

Winning this match will go a long way in helping the team finish second, and this topic was also discussed as Xavi addressed the customary press conference ahead of this match.

The main highlights of this presser are as follows:

Xavi began the presser by praising his opponents, while also recognizing the opportunity to retake the second league spot:

“A new opportunity to be second, facing an extraordinary opponent. Imanol has been doing a great job for years. A difficult and solid rival. We have trained well, the team is eager and tense after the defeat against Girona.”

The Barcelona head coach was clear finishing second would mean a lot for his team: “It would be a setback not to achieve it; it’s a vital match to regain the second place in these four games. It would mean a lot to us.”

There have been consistent reports about nearly every player in the Barcelona squad being potentially available for transfer. However, Xavi has made it clear that he is not currently considering any departures.

“I tell the players that we are the ones who are in it until the end, and now the goal is to finish second. I understand that there’s talk of departures and transferables, but nobody is transferable because we are focused on tomorrow’s match. It’s time to stick together.”

Pedri has been struggling with fitness issues for the last few months, and his participation in the UEFA EURO 2024 is not really clear for now. However, Xavi shared that the midfielder was training at his maximum level:

“It’s not up to me whether he goes to the Euros. I see him well, training at one hundred percent. We’ve tried to manage his situation, and he’s doing well.”

Xavi ensured that he will keep on managing the squad as he has done throughout the season, even though there is very little left to play for:

“In the same way as winning the league. We have the goal even if it’s minimal. The squad is managed professionally.”

The Barcelona trainer was wary of the different ways in which Real Sociedad can play on the pitch:

“I don’t know which Real [team] we’ll face. It’s a team that plays very well. They do things very well. It’s a solid team. Depending on how they set up their defense, we’ll attack in one way or another.”

“They do well in low blocks, and when they press, they do it effectively. They are strong in duels, they don’t let you transition easily. With Imanol [Alguacil], they do things very well. Getafe also presented us with a brave match.”

The former midfielder also made it clear that finishing second or third will have no impact on the planning for the upcoming summer transfer window:

“I don’t believe that the planning depends on finishing second or not. With Deco, it’s already agreed upon. The relief is winning ourselves and winning the four matches.”

“Don’t ask me about the planning anymore. It will depend on the end of the season and the situation we are in.”

Xavi also shared his happiness with how the youngsters were performing, and told the reporters that Cubarsi’s renewal negotiations were going well:

“Youth players, Pau and Lamine, have made a difference at their age. The renewal of Pau is very good. With Héctor (Fort), with Marc Guiu, they are academy players who are performing. It’s great news for the club.”

The Barcelona head coach had a deep reflection on the team’s weaknesses this season: “As staff, we have engaged in self-criticism. We need to regain balance. Last year we were good. The absence has weighed heavily on us. We haven’t lived up to it.”

“In many games, we have failed to play without a natural defensive midfielder. With Andreas, with Oriol, we have performed better. We have to regain this balance. This year, the lack of dominance has weighed on us, leading to more transitions and counterattacks.”

The trainer wanted his team to have competition in all 11 positions: “It’s a maxim, one of the objectives is to double up positions, to have competitiveness. For me, it’s key.”

The former midfielder also hinted that he has already selected the starting eleven for the upcoming game: “Any player can change the dynamics in these four games. The lineup against Real Sociedad is decided. I don’t think it will change.”

One of the players who will be attracting a lot of attention in the upcoming game will be Martin Zubimendi, as Xavi wants him in his team as the midfield pivot, but he will be facing his team tomorrow in La Reale colors. However, the Barcelona coach refrained from making any marked comments specifically on the player:

“I already said last year that he seems to me a very good footballer. But not only him, but also Mikel Merino, Kubo… it’s a great team and an immense coach like Imanol.”

Xavi admitted that not adapting to some specific games has cost his team this season: “The approach of some matches, the restructuring of the midfield. There are things that need to be readjusted.”

The Barcelona head coach was sure that Lamine Yamal would shine in this match, irrespective of who plays on the flanks for Real Sociedad:

“He’s making a difference, he’s at a high level, regardless of Real’s full-back, whether they have absences or not.”

Ahead of this match, Xavi also reminded the reporters that this Real Sociedad team had been the only one to match Barcelona in one key aspect in the first encounter between the two sides earlier in the season:

“They are the only team that took possession away from us. They pressed us very well. A tough match. We have planned it in the best way for it to turn out well.”

Lastly, the Barcelona head coach made it clear that the club would not be in favor of their youngsters playing both the UEFA EURO 2024 and the Olympics, and will talk to the RFEF if such a possibility arose:

“We will talk to the Federation in case Pau Cubarsí and Lamine Yamal decide to double up EURO and Olympic Games. We will discuss it if it comes to that.”

Source: Mundo Deportivo

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