Xavi describes Sunday’s El Clásico against Madrid as the most important game of the season

Xavi describes Sunday’s El Clásico against Madrid as the most important game of the season

 The Barcelona coach Xaxi has defined Sunday’s Clásico as “the most important game of the season” against  “a very strong Madrid that has just eliminated the best team in the world, City.”

Xavi faced the media on Saturday to look ahead Sunday’s clash against Real Madrid at the Bernabéu.

With eight points separating the two clubs at the top of the table and seven matches left to play, it’s a game that Barça must win to remain in contention for the title. Defeat would practically put the league beyond reach for the Catalans.

What are you expecting from Real Madrid on Sunday ?

We have the opportunity to put ourselves back in the battle for La Liga. It’s the most important game of the season. I’m sure we’ll find ourselves up against a very strong Madrid with confidence after eliminating the best team in the world, Manchester City. Today we trained well, but we have to change our mindset. There is enthusiasm among the players to fight for this league title.

How is the team mentally?

We have to change our mindset. I hope that all of the frustration and helplessness we felt the other day can be turned to our favour. It was difficult to digest but that’s what we need to do now. In front of us, we will have a Madrid side who are on a high mentally.

Have the injuries in the locker room been resolved?

It’s been resolved, we don’t have any problems. By talking things through people can understand each other. Madrid presses during the first minutes of each half. We will need to be brave when in possession and make sure we don’t lose the ball. It’s the perfect stage for us to show our personality. We’ve prepared for the game well. The first few minutes will be key, we will need to calm Madrid and counter their high press.

What did you think about the Madrid-City game?

Madrid had to defend against the best team in the world. Sometimes your rival has you against the ropes and you have no option but to sit back and defend en masse. The same thing happened to us against Real Sociedad. They defended well and it’s perfectly legal to do so. It’s happened before in the Clásico. The first half was ours. We have to be effective tomorrow because Madrid are what they are. Madrid has a lot of potential, they’re one of the best teams in the world.

What do you think is behind Madrid’s competitive gene?

They have won a lot of games and trophies and that breeds confidence. Some people might claim it’s luck, but I don’t think so. They have worked very hard and as a team, they help each other out. What Madrid has done and continues to do is not down to chance. In three seasons, they’ve knocked out the best team in the world, Man City. And we are competing with them here in Spain.

Have you arranged a meeting with Laporta to discuss whether you will continue next season?

There’s no meeting, they haven’t called me. I’m of little importance. Tomorrow we will be battling for the league. We need to win. There’ll be other moments to sit down and talk.

Is tomorrow’s game almost a final?

For us it is the most important game of the season. We need to win and put pressure on the leaders. We are going to try to compete and win at the Bernabéu.

Madrid has had the edge in this fixture in recent seasons.

We have all the respect in the world for Madrid and their stats are incredible. But so are ours because we are four points closer to them than we were last season. I see tomorrow’s game as a great opportunity for us.

Do you realize that the result of tomorrow’s game could have consequences?

I am only thinking positively and about winning. We will be going out to win.

Could fatigue play a part tomorrow?

We are fine physically. I don’t think tiredness comes into it in these kinds of games.

The same ref who was in charge of the Getafe will oversee tomorrow’s match...

Talking about referees doesn’t help me. We talk too much. Let’s hope he has a good game and goes unnoticed.

Do you have the feeling that the PSG game was a missed chance for Barça?

Yes, that’s why I felt so frustrated. And that’s also why I made a mistake by getting sent off. You can see the injustice and there’s a lot of tension. We didn’t get over the errors we made. It’s a shame because it was a golden opportunity for us. And we let it slip through our hands.

Is Barça defending worse now?

Yes, and that’s disappointing because in many games we have ended on 10 men and defended much better. But the other night we didn’t defend well. It was our mistakes that let the rival back in and we need to be self-critical. We will learn from everything that happens to us.

Will you revert to four in midfield?

Whoever plays in that position, has to help the team out a lot, because he will be the free man. Raphinha is now looking like a midfielder, he’s adapting to the position well. Tomorrow we’ll see because we have a lot of options for that position.