Xavi talks Pedri, Fermin, Frenkie, Lewandowski, ahead of Granada vs Barcelona

Date:

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

After their victory against Porto in the Champions League on Wednesday, FC Barcelona are back in action in La Liga with a match against Granada. The Catalans will be looking to continue their unbeaten run in the league, but this time without some of their most important players like Frenkie de Jong, Pedri, Raphinha, and Robert Lewandowski.

Xavi gave the customary press conference before the match today and touched upon different aspects related to the club and this match. The main highlights of this presser are reproduced below:

Match against Granada

While Barcelona will be without some of their most important players, this loss is balanced to some extent by the injuries to Granada players, who are also out with injuries. Regarding these absences for Granada, Xavi remarked:

“There are significant absences, but we are in good shape, with good feelings after these last hard-fought victories. We are facing the most physical team in the league, with a very potent offensive potential, and yes, they struggle in defense. Teams managed by Paco López are always difficult to beat.”

Xavi shared that the team has learned from their errors in the Porto match, and would not only try to win the Granada match, but do so while playing some beautiful football:

“It’s our DNA, which is to win while playing well. It’s true that in Porto, we didn’t perform well with the ball. We’ve watched videos so that the players can see it. Without the ball, we weren’t good. Barcelona is the most demanding club in the world; you have to win while playing well.”

Xavi also praised the Granada coach Paco Lopez and highlighted the main strengths of his playing style:

“I have admiration for him, without knowing him deeply. He’s a coach with alternatives, and variations, who conveys ideas. He plays with 4, with 5, direct football, not so direct…”

Xavi was not giving too much away on what setup he would be going into this match with:

“We need to see how we do it, but we always want to attack, whether we play with 3 forwards or 4 midfielders. The philosophy doesn’t change.”

League table and performances over the season

Barcelona can go to the top of the league table if they win this match and other results go in their favor. However, Xavi was not too much taken up with this issue:

“If we win, there will be tranquillity, and of course, we would like to be leaders. But it’s not crucial at this stage, although it’s positive. It’s good to go into the break with three more points.”

Xavi also provided insights into the defensive aims of his team:

“Our idea is to defend with the ball. If we can have 80% possession instead of 70%, that’s better, but for that, we need to be aggressive. There’s also an opponent, and Porto didn’t let us have the ball in the second half. Porto’s home record is extraordinary; they have lost only one of their last 20 matches. But our goal is clear: to have the ball.”

Barcelona have drawn two La Liga matches in this campaign, which have resulted in them dropping below Real Madrid in the points table. Xavi expressed his disappointment with such matches in this press conference:

“We don’t like them [the draws in the league], they are not positive. Betis, Antwerp, even the day we played Sevilla and only won 1-0… that’s the level of play we are aiming for. We believe we have played excellent matches this season.”

Overall, Xavi seemed satisfied with the team’s performances over the season:

“There have been games where we’ve performed well and others not so much. We need to take better care of the ball, but in terms of attitude and effort, it’s been spectacular. In Porto, it was the match where we ran the most this season in terms of kilometers covered. That says it all about the attitude.”

Internationals and Camp Nou

With the club football seasons already highly congested for big clubs, the international matches in between can be a significant source of fatigue for players. Xavi addressed this issue in this presser:

“We are in contact with the federations, physiotherapists, doctors… It doesn’t benefit us to engage in conflicts. We need to have an extraordinary relationship. The injuries have not been muscular; they have been ankle-related, more a matter of misfortune. Our injury rate is very low for a big club.”

FIFA is currently deciding upon the stadium for the FIFA 2030 World Cup final, and Camp Nou is one of the possible venues for this momentous event. Xavi was clear that Camp Nou should host this event:

“Camp Nou, of course, why not? It’s the stadium with the most capacity.”

Xavi also highlighted his expectations as a coach at Barcelona and the difficulties that a Barcelona manager faces:

“I hope to reach 200 games, yes. There’s no doubt that this is the most demanding club in the world because it’s the only one where winning, playing well, and creating good sensations are all expected. It’s the only club in the world where that happens.”

Injuries and players’ form

Xavi also addressed the issue of injuries at Barcelona and hoped they would return to full fitness soon:

“We don’t have a plague of injuries, but the squad is shorter than it is long, and it seems that way. We hope to have some players back in the next match. The important thing is that they recover well.”

It has been some time since some of Barcelona’s players have been sidelined with injuries, and some of them are close to returning to the team. Xavi updated the press on the situation of these players:

“Pedri is the one who is closest to returning. It depends on the sensations. We need to recover as many players as possible for the next match. We’ll see how Robert, Frenkie… are doing.”

Fermin Lopez has been getting increasing minutes with the first team in recent matches, especially with other midfielders currently out with injuries. In this presser, Xavi highlighted the main strengths of Fermin Lopez that he likes:

“I’ve said it several times: I like how he uses both foots, how he shoots from outside the box, his positioning, aggressiveness, intensity, he wins many duels… if he keeps it up, he’ll get a lot of minutes.”

One of the most important absences due to injuries in this match would be that of Robert Lewandowski, who went out in the match against Porto with an injury. Xavi highlighted Lewandowski’s importance for the team but was clear that Barcelona will have options to cover for him:

“It’s a very significant absence, our top scorer, leader, but we have alternatives like Joao, Ferran, we’ve brought up Pau Victor, Guiu. There are options. Fermín himself can play as a false 9, just like in youth football.”

“Our idea doesn’t change without Lewandowski, but it does for the opponent because he instills fear. We will try to make sure that whoever plays as the number 9 does it just as well, but it’s difficult to replace a world-class talent.”

Oriol Romeu has been a mainstay in Xavi’s team since his arrival at the club, but his performance in the match against Porto was not entirely convincing. However, Xavi had no complaints regarding his performance:

“He was at the team’s level the other day, even though we didn’t perform well. But he is a guarantee. I am delighted with him. He is an extraordinary signing. He brings us a lot, defensive security… and he’s good in attack as well.”

Having only Oriol Romeu as the midfield pivot specialist, there have been reports of Christensen being tested in the midfield. This topic was also raised in Xavi’s presser:

“Playing as a pivot wouldn’t be the first choice. There are alternatives like Gündogan… Andreas can play there on occasion, but it wouldn’t be the primary option.”

Xavi has been regularly calling up players from the youth team to train and play with the first team. He named two youngsters who have been called up for this match against Granada:

“Casadó was with us, but due to the absences in the B team, he will join them. We are taking the forwards, Guiu and Victor.”

Since last season, Alejandro Balde has been playing at a very high level despite his youth. He has been awarded for his performances with a new contract, and Xavi also praised him in this presser:

“I see him [Balde] in very good form. In Porto, he was one of the best. He divided play, and acted as a free man in ball distribution. And yes, we need to get more out of what he provides in attack. I’m delighted with him.”

Xavi also singled out Frenkie de Jong for praise and claimed that he was being undervalued by the media because the expectations at Barcelona are higher than at most other clubs:

“In Barcelona, everything is always undervalued; a player who’s an 8 is considered a 6. You have to be mentally strong as a player. That’s why we try to give confidence to our players. Frenkie is one of the best midfielders in the world, and that’s why some people are surprised by the criticisms. It’s Barcelona, my friend. That’s how it works.”

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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