Xavi talks Raphinha, Araujo, Yamal, Cubarsi, Cancelo ahead of Barcelona vs Granada

Barcelona's Spanish coach Xavi is pictured sitting on the bench prior to the Spanish league football match between Deportivo Alaves and FC Barcelona at the Mendizorroza stadium in Vitoria on February 3, 2024.
Photo by ANDER GILLENEA/AFP via Getty Images

FC Barcelona are scheduled to play their next La Liga match against Granada. The Catalans will be looking for a victory over their rival in this game to maintain their winning run and also to further reduce the 8-point deficit they have over the league leaders, Real Madrid.

Xavi, who will be leaving the club at the end of the season, talked to the press ahead of this match, and addressed questions related to the club and this match in particular.

The main highlights of this presser are as follows:

Xavi began his press conference with comments on how Granada may approach this upcoming tie:

“Granada changed their coach a few days ago. They have improved in aggressiveness, we imagine a game with Granada defending deep. They are in need of points, but they have improved, they have necessity and they have a lot at stake. We’ll be in front of our fans and we’ll need their support.”

As has already happened several times in the past few weeks, Xavi was once again asked if his decision to leave Barcelona at the end of the season can be changed. The Barcelona head coach reiterated that there is no going back for him after he announced his decision:

“I think I made it very clear, nothing has to change, I’m focused on day-to-day matters. The decision was correct, I think the club needed this change in dynamics and this change in direction. I don’t focus on anything else but the game tomorrow, I don’t think about Vigo or Naples. The other stuff doesn’t change anything, the decision is clear.”

One of the players whose presence in the match against Granada has been doubtful is the midfielder Oriol Romeu. Xavi explained the situation being faced by him, and confirmed he will be rested for this match:

“About Oriol, I can say that his involvement is moving. He’s been playing many games with discomfort, another player would have looked out for himself and stopped. He’s looked out for the team, how he can help. We know the difficulty he’s going through and from here on he will rest tomorrow and will be available for the match against Celta.”

The Brazilian striker, Vitor Roque, was shown two cards in the match against Alaves, and despite Barcelona’s appeal, he will serve his suspension in this match. Despite this loss, Xavi did not comment on referees in this presser:

“I already said that I’m not going to talk about referees anymore. I stated my opinion last week. With all the respect in the world, I’m not going to answer you.”

While Roque will be missed, Xavi will be more than happy to get back his starting goalkeeper for this match, as Ter Stegen is likely to start against Granada. Xavi explained why the German is so important for the team:

“He is very important, a fundamental player, one of the captains and leaders of the squad. That said, I am very happy with Iñaki, I think he has done a very good job and has shown that he is a Barcelona goalkeeper. But, well, I am very happy for Marc, and we are talking about a key player for the squad.”

In addition to Ter Stegen, Xavi also provided updates on two more injured Barcelona players, Raphinha and Roberto:

“Rafa will be available tomorrow. He has had a very good recovery, he is positive. We see him training and being in the same dynamic as before the injury, and he will help us a lot. Sergi is a bit tight and may not be available tomorrow, but he will be next week.”

Xavi also shed some light on the uncertain future of the Barcelona captain at the club:

“I don’t know, I already gave my recommendation to the club, which is for him to renew. I believe he is a very important team player, both in the dressing room and on the field. For me, he has always been an important player whenever he has been available and has helped us a lot. My recommendation is this, but these are personal decisions that one has to feel and decide.”

There has been some commotion regarding FIFA’s planning to bring in a blue card that will temporarily expel a player for certain actions during a match. Xavi gave his ascent to try this idea:

“It seems to me that it’s worth trying; FIFA is right to try things out. If it works well, it’s one more tool for football, but for now, they are just hypotheses.”

Real Madrid and Girona face each other in their La Liga match this week, and this will be a golden opportunity for Barcelona to reduce their deficit to the top of the league. Xavi also recognized this opportunity and emphasized that Barcelona should ensure a win against Granada to take advantage of this:

“What suits us is to win tomorrow, especially knowing that today one of the two, or both, will drop points. What we can’t do is fail as we did the day against Villarreal; if we hadn’t failed, we would be at a much lesser disadvantage.”

“That’s what we must not do tomorrow, of course, we will be attentive. It’s important, but above all, the most important thing is not to fail tomorrow and get the three points.”

When asked whether Christensen will play once again in the midfield, Xavi looked very open to this idea:

“It’s one of the options, I think it worked out well. He is fine, he is comfortable. He has the ability to play while scanning 360 degrees, he chooses well, and yes, it’s one of the options.”

Xavi shared that he will be extra motivated for his team’s upcoming match against Granada, especially because the Blaugranes haven’t beaten Granada since Xavi’s arrival:

“It’s an extra motivation on a personal level and also for the players because lately we haven’t beaten Granada. They are a tough opponent, and it will be a challenge for us tomorrow.”

“They have competed against all opponents since Medina’s arrival. It’s an extra motivation for us to show that we have improved. We want to continue the momentum from Vitoria.”

The Barcelona head coach also discussed the enhanced role of Pau Cubarsi in the squad:

“Cubarsí will have the same role; I believe he has earned the starting position and the trust of his teammates and ours. Right now, he is a very important player in ball distribution, in duels, but also Iñigo. The advantage now is that we have players to rotate, it is essential to have several options on the bench.”

Even though he will be leaving at the end of the season, Xavi took this opportunity to share that he will remain involved in the club’s matters if his opinion is sought:

“Nothing has changed, I have a friendship with Deco, and I will try to help him in whatever way I can, even if I’m not continuing next season, by offering my opinion. I am more motivated knowing that my time in the position is running out.”

Pau Victor has been one of the standout players at Barcelona Atletic, and Xavi indicated that he might get his debut with the first team in the coming days:

“Pau Víctor is a versatile player who can play in all three positions up front. He is a player who makes good runs, has a goal-scoring ability, is smart, and is in great form. He hasn’t debuted yet, but he is ready.”

Xavi also highlighted how the new coach at Granada is impacting his team’s playing style:

“I think Medina’s influence is already noticeable. It’s a team that gives away very little, and doesn’t allow specific plays. They defend very well, play directly, and I think you can see the coach’s influence.”

The former midfielder explained how Lamine Yamal can keep on getting minutes even after Raphinha’s return from injury:

“Yes, they are compatible, both can play in central positions. The recovery of Rafa is very good news. It’s true that Lamine has accumulated a lot of minutes, but this long week has been good for arriving fresher.”

Fermin Lopez has not been getting a lot of minutes lately, but Xavi still picked him out for some praise in the press conference:

“I am very happy with him; he has been one of the most pleasant surprises of the season. I am very pleased; he is participating, but of course, there is competition. I am delighted with him, but the good form of the other midfielders is affecting him.”

Gundogan’s role in the team was also discussed by Xavi:

“Definitely yes. The players responsible for the final pass also have to feed the forwards. Many times they are criticized for not scoring goals, but as a team, we also have to supply the forward. Gundo’s 10-15 meter advance has benefited him.”

Gavi is one of the players whom the team has missed a lot since his injury, and Xavi provided an update on his recovery:

“He’s doing very well, better than expected, but well, it’s Gavi. He would want to be back already, but he can’t. He’s undergoing a perfect, textbook recovery. He’s happy, he’s accepting it, I see him very involved with the group. Despite not being on the field, he is a very important person for the group.”

Xavi reiterated that he was very satisfied with the job he has done, and had no regrets regarding his Barcelona managerial career:

“Well, honestly, I have been moved by the reaction of the locker room, not only towards me but also towards the staff. I stick with that, just as I have seen the reaction of the fans on the field and in the streets. I stick with that. I have a clear conscience that I have done a good job.”

The physical situations of Araujo and Cancelo were also discussed by the head coach:

“They’re both fine; they have discomfort. In Cancelo’s case, it’s in the knee and it hurts. In this case, it’s moving to see the commitment of the players, Romeu, Sergi Roberto, Christensen… they’re all fine. Both will be available tomorrow.”

Source: Mundo Deportivo

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