Tactical Insights

Barcelona want revenge over Girona after 4-2 defeat – Xavi

Barcelona coach Xavi Hernández wants his side to exact revenge on Girona when the two teams meet on Saturday at Montilivi with second place in LaLiga up for grabs.

Girona beat Barça 4-2 at the Olympic Stadium earlier in the campaign and sit third in the table, two points behind their Catalan rivals with just five games to go.

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Whoever finishes second will join champions-elect Real Madrid — who could mathematically clinch the LaLiga title this weekend if results go their way — and Copa del Rey finalists Athletic Club and Mallorca in the Spanish Super Cup next season, which comes with a financial boost.

“We want football revenge after losing the first game against them this season,” Xavi told a news conference on Friday. “But that’s revenge for the team, it’s not personal.

“It’s not a final, but we are approaching it as a vitally important game. It is not definitive [in the battle to finish second], but we want to compete and do well.

“The first game escaped us in December and we need to be more clinical and tweak things in defence. We deserved more when we met at home and Saturday is a chance to show that justice was not done that day and to exact some football revenge.

“Our main aim now is to finish second and qualify for the Super Cup.”

Girona have already sealed European football next season for the first time in the club’s 94-year history and victory over Barça would cap a remarkable campaign with Champions League qualification.

“It’s the moment to congratulate them because they’re at an extraordinary level, the level of a Champions League team,” Xavi added.

“They have had an exceptional season. It will be a tough game because they are a Champions League-level side; I say that not because of the standings, but what they have demonstrated on the pitch.

“It’s an honour for Catalan football to have Girona in the Champions League as well — and they were in the race to win LaLiga until recently.

“They have had an exceptional season, [coach] Míchel [Sánchez], the players, the sporting department… Their level has been fantastic.”

Eric García, on loan from Barça, is one of the players who has excelled at Girona this season, while Oriol Romeu, who made the move the other way last summer, has struggled for game time under Xavi.

The Barça coach said that is because it’s easier for players to play for a club of the size of Girona.

“The context completely changes at Barça,” Xavi said. “The pressure is not the same. Players perform at Girona with fewer demands and more calm. It is much easier to play for a team like Girona than Barcelona.

“It’s very difficult [to change that] because how many people cover Barça? A lot of people. And Girona? Far fewer. Therefore, the expectations and demands will always be different.

“The players explain that themselves, not me. When you speak with Eric, you get the feeling that he feels liberated at Girona.”

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