Categories: Sports

Xavi on Clasico critics: Barca world’s hardest club

Manager Xavi Hernandez has said the criticism Barcelona have faced after beating Real Madrid shows why he is in charge of “the most difficult club in the world.”

An own goal from Eder Militao gave Barca a slender 1-0 advantage in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semifinal between the two teams at the Bernabeu on Thursday.

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However, most of the fallout from the Clasico has focused on the fact Barca only had 35% possession — their lowest in the last eight seasons and lowest across their last 685 games for which data is available.

“It’s created a bit of a stir, which is why I say Barcelona is the most difficult club in the world,” Xavi said in a news conference ahead of Sunday’s LaLiga clash with Valencia.

“Winning is not enough here. You beat Real Madrid 1-0 and it’s not convincing because [of losing possession]. The other way around, it’s a national holiday.

“I said this last season and I was hammered for it. At Barca, you have to win and be convincing. That is our objective. But we are up against the LaLiga and Champions League holders. If they press you high, it’s difficult.

“Speaking about possession when they play you man to man is absurd. We didn’t plan to sit in a low block, Real Madrid put us there. That’s football.

“This is the most difficult club in the world, no doubt. There is a very clear idea of how to play and if you don’t do it, it is not satisfactory. We won at a really difficult ground.”

Despite being knocked out of Europe, Barca are still on track for a domestic treble. They have already won the Spanish Super Cup, lead LaLiga by seven points and have the advantage over Madrid in the Copa del Rey ahead of the second leg at Camp Nou on April 5.

They can strengthen their grip at the top of the the league on Sunday when they host Valencia.

However, they remain without the injured trio of Robert Lewandowski, Pedri and Ousmane Dembele, while Gavi is suspended. Xavi will also have to watch the game from the stands as he serves a one-game ban for an accumulation of yellow cards.

To compensate for the absences, Xavi has called up B team winger Estanis Pedrola for the second game running.

“He is a versatile footballer who is doing good things with the reserve team,” Xavi said. “He is a pure winger. He is strong physically. He has the quality to be important for us.”

Valencia arrive at Camp Nou in the bottom three but boosted by a 1-0 win over Real Sociedad last weekend under new coach Ruben Baraja.

“They defend well under Baraja,” Xavi added. “They are more aggressive, intense and quick in transitions. They really need the points because they have a lot at stake in the league, so it will be really difficult.”


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