Xavi talks Pedri, Gundogan, Yamal, Cubarsi, Dembele ahead of Barcelona vs PSG


Barcelona's Spanish coach Xavi gives a press conference on the eve of their UEFA Champions League quarter-final second leg football match against Paris SG at the training center in Barcelona on April 15, 2024.
Photo by JOSEP LAGO/AFP via Getty Images

A decisive night awaits Xavi as his FC Barcelona team takes on Paris Saint Germain in the second leg of the UEFA Champions League quarter-final tie. The Catalans put in a memorable display in the first leg as they came out the 3-2 winners against a stacked PSG side.

However, the Blaugranes’ business in this tie is far from over, and Xavi will have to be at his best to ensure Barcelona advances to the semi-finals. Ahead of this match, Xavi addressed the customary press conference, in which he talked about different aspects of his team, the club, and this match in particular.

Xavi began the presser with some comments on how he believed PSG will come into this match:

“For us, it’s a huge opportunity as a club. We’re playing at home, and Montjuïc has to resemble the great nights at Camp Nou. PSG won’t come to speculate; they’ll match our system man-to-man. We have to show a lot of personality to reach the semifinals.”

“It will be a brave PSG, and playing at home gives us an advantage, but it will be a very difficult match. We’re excited in the best sense of the word.”

Xavi was clear that both Gundogan and Pedri will be key for Barcelona as they look to get another win over PSG:

“I like both of them. I imagine them providing the final pass. That’s the great quality they have. They give us pause and tempo. Tomorrow is a tough match for the midfielders.”

“We’ll be facing one of the most intense teams in the world. If Gündogan and Pedri have space and time, we’ll have a lot to gain.”

The Barcelona head coach rued the absences of Christensen and Roberto, who are both suspended for this game:

“The absences of Christensen and Sergi are very sensitive. Suspensions hurt us. The key for tomorrow is to be a team. We have to give our all and our lives to make it to the semifinals. If we are a team, we have a good chance of reaching the semifinals.”

Pedri is set to start his first match in months tomorrow, but Xavi was confident he can play the full 90 minutes: “Everyone who will be called up can play the full 90 minutes. We’ll talk about fatigue with Pedri later. Pedri has to be very important tomorrow.”

The former midfielder shared how the team is getting a lot of support from President Laporta:

“He told me he wanted to stay in the rondo to play. There’s enthusiasm again, you can see it in the people, but also in the president. Today he wanted to be with the team to show his support and confidence. Happy to see him excited. We’ve regained the enthusiasm that was missing during the season.”

In general, Xavi was grateful to be in the position that Barcelona currently find themselves in:

“I’m fine, motivated for tomorrow. I’m very proud to be able to qualify for the semifinals. Barcelona fans are too. It’s a great opportunity. Victories bring relief, but defeats don’t let you breathe. I’m with Ancelotti. I’m euphoric and excited to be where we are.”

The Barcelona head coach admitted that PSG can pull a surprise for his team, but still remained confident that his players will repeat the feats of the first leg:

“Luis and PSG have so many options that you don’t know which variant he might use. We have to understand that we must have a very clear structure. Tomorrow we will repeat, with some variation. This is about the players. Our players were at a brilliant level.”

“PSG or Luis Enrique’s teams always go on the attack. Even more so tomorrow since they’re losing in the scoreline. If they haven’t speculated throughout the season, tomorrow they’ll do it even less.”

When asked about a possibly hostile reception for Dembele, Xavi believed people should be allowed to express themselves: “I greeted him before the match. People should show what they want, that’s why there’s an audience.”

The Barcelona trainer was clear that emotions will matter a lot in a match of this significance for his team:

“Very important. In head-to-head knockout matches, feelings matter. We have to control ourselves a lot and show the team’s best face and personality. The emotional aspect is key in the tie.”

Xavi also shared what the win in the first leg meant for Barcelona: “Double or triple (laughs). The victory gave us morale and confidence to compete with one of the best teams in the world currently.”

The second leg is set to be played at the Montjuic, and Xavi had a request for Barcelona fans attending the game: “Tomorrow we need Montjuïc to be a cauldron. It’s very important for the club, and I’m sure the fans will help us.”

Having already announced his decision to leave the club at the end of the season, the Barcelona trainer was not too keen to comment on his future at this presser:

“You worry too much about me. The important thing is for the club to advance to the semifinals, not for me to go anywhere.”

When asked whether he regretted Dembele’s departure from the club, Xavi was clear that he did not want him to leave but still has a lot of affection for him:

“I felt bad about Ousmane because he was in an extraordinary moment here. I hold no grudges, and tomorrow I’ll greet him with all respect. I have a lot of affection for him.”

The former midfielder also named the three managers who have left the deepest impact on him as a coach:

“Perhaps with Luis Aragonés, they are the three coaches who have influenced me the most. With Pep and Luis Enrique. When I think about what I have to do, I remember them a lot. They have left their mark on me. That’s my reality.”

While admitting that Raphinha was in top form in the first leg, Xavi reiterated that everyone in the team is thinking only about the group:

“Think about the team and the group. Everyone is thinking about the collective. That’s where the improvement comes from. Raphinha has a lot of talent and skills. He can be a game-changer like he was in the first leg.”

The Barcelona head coach had some very clear ideas on why the coaches and players associated with the Catalan club are so successful in Europe:

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence. The Barcelona school produces many coaches. With this type of coaches, more coaches emerge, and this is the philosophy of Barça. It’s a merit of Barcelona and its DNA.”

Lamine Yamal and Pau Cubarsi might be lacking in experience, but Xavi shared that they were fully driven for this upcoming match:

“They are two people who are talkative and always want to be better. I don’t have to explain much to them. It’s a Champions League night and it’s a huge opportunity. We don’t need extra motivation.”

The trainer shared how he wanted his team to reach the next stage in the tournament if only to bring a smile on the faces of the fans:

“It would be one more reason to make it more mystical. Reaching the semifinals would be a resounding success. Seeing the Barça fans like this again is already a success, but the goal is to reach the semifinals, and that would be very exciting.”

When asked to speculate the match against PSG, Xavi was adamant that the only thing on the team’s mind was to win and advance further in the tournament:

“You see that we’re not a team that speculates. We want to win and advance in the tie. We have to do things very well. I visualize a match very similar to the first leg. It will be a very important battle. They don’t speculate, and we won’t either.”

Lastly, the former midfielder shared that he feels a lot more relaxed since having made the announcement about his decision to leave Barcelona at the end of this season:

“Without a doubt. To me, to the players, and to the press. I’ve had more of a sense of belonging, and it’s turned out phenomenally.”

Source: Mundo Deportivo

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